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Red Lady Coalition transforms itself with Mt. Emmons activity

Moving from education to advocacy dissolves RLC

By Mark Reaman

After more than a decade as a local organization participating in the effort to keep Mt. Emmons mine-free, the Red Lady Coalition is disbanding as a corporation. The board voted to dissolve the 501(c)3 non-profit organization but board chairman Bill Ronai said the board members are still very committed to staying involved in the outcome of the Mt. Emmons mine situation and will work as a more informal group of concerned citizens to see if a solution can be completed.

Education is a primary mission of 501(c)3 organizations and Ronai said under IRS rules, the board had to dissolve. “We have fulfilled our education objective by commissioning and disseminating the Center for Applied Research study that looked at how our economy works and assessed the economic ramifications to the valley if a mine were approved,” explained Ronai. “The study itself and the public awareness of its results were our educational purposes and those are now complete. Now our purpose feels more like advocacy because we are actively pursuing initiatives to have this situation permanently resolved.”

Ronai said the two primary goals of the members remain to protect the upper valley’s watershed through modernizing the decades-old water treatment plant and ultimately to get a congressional withdrawal of mineral rights on the approximately 6,000 acres of unpatented mining claims surrounding Mt. Emmons.

“Those are the two big goals we all want to see accomplished,” Ronai said. “Everything else falls under those two things.”

One avenue to modernize the aging water treatment plant is to support an idea put forth by mine owner Freeport McMoRan to privatize a small portion of the Forest Service land on which the plant sits. Freeport is willing to keep operating the plant and be monitored subject to a comprehensive contractual agreement. Ronai said the board of the coalition supports the privatization idea as a part of a total solution.

In a letter to supporters of the Red Lady Coalition, the board stated that “a contractual arrangement with extensive compliance and enforcement provisions…”

“…that are legally binding provide better assurances that our watershed will be protected than an underfunded and under-resourced USFS which itself has acknowledged its predicament and favors a contractual arrangement.”

“We want to see a conclusion and we will do whatever we can to help the involved parties along an agreed path,” said Ronai. “We do feel privatizing a small portion of the property can help the matter be settled. With proper safeguards in a contract, that could lead to an expeditious and totally acceptable solution as part of a comprehensive package.”

As for the end of the Red Lady Coalition organization, the website has been taken down, the Facebook page is dormant and the net distributable cash has been donated to the Coal Creek Watershed Coalition.

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