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Red Lady mine situation continues

Mining Co. a good partner

By Mark Reaman

While nothing definitive has been settled with the new owner of the molybdenum mine on Mt. Emmons, those involved with the Freeport McMoRan and its subsidiary, Mt. Emmons Mining Company, feel positive about the direction things are going.

A meeting between representatives of MEMC, Gunnison County and the town of Crested Butte in late October was described as “positive” and “fruitful.” Gunnison County attorney David Baumgarten said the mining company really didn’t know what it had when it took over the site from U.S. Energy. ‘

“They are doing their own characterization of the site right now,” Baumgarten said. “They are also working well with the Colorado DRMS [Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety] doing some work on the private land on the mine site to investigate the best way for remediation of some of the waste rock that sits on Mt. Emmons. The conversation also now includes the best way to find a method where improvement work can continue with local jurisdiction and control.”

“However the process goes forward, the town wants to make sure that activities on public lands are subject to public input and transparency,” added Crested Butte town attorney Barbara Green.

“Things still have good, active, forward momentum,” said Baumgarten. “They are working well with the state and there is a high level of respect between Freeport and the state.”

“We have worked well with them on several issues,” agreed Green. “I feel very positive with the direction that things are going.”

Meanwhile, the Red Lady Coalition has dissolved its 501(c)3 since it is moving from education to advocacy. The RLC board members said they still will remain involved to protect the Coal Creek watershed and ultimately get a Congressional withdrawal of mineral rights on the approximately 6,000 acres of unpatented mining claims on Mt. Emmons. They are willing to go along with the idea of partial privatization of land where the water treatment plant is located as part of total solution. But the former RLC board is adamant that strict contractual agreements are part of any such deal.

The High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA) continues to be involved as well. “HCCA continues to remain engaged in water quality and other aspects of the Red Lady issue. We’ve been to the water treatment facility and surrounding area multiple times with a representative from Freeport-McMoRan,” said HCCA executive director Brett Henderson. “We’re still working to find a permanent solution that cleans up our watershed and includes a withdrawal of mineral rights on Red Lady. We are open to a creative approach to accomplish this shared objective so long as our community has sufficient legal assurance in place.”

Henderson said overall, HCCA also feels progress at the mine is moving in a positive direction.

“At this point Freeport has been a communicative and willing partner. Last June was the first time we’ve ever entered a water quality hearing in agreement with the mining company in charge of the wastewater treatment plant. Freeport appears to be forthcoming with information and has been willing to discuss options that would be agreeable to all parties,” Henderson said.

He continued, “We’re open to continuing to discuss a range of options that could best facilitate these goals, for Freeport and our community. It is important to HCCA that there would be sufficient oversight of site reclamation so we are assured that our watershed is protected. It’s also crucial that our shared end-goal, a permanent withdrawal, is a core component of any agreed-upon path forward. We look forward to continuing to talk with Freeport and other local partners to design a solution that secures a permanent mine-free solution that protects Red Lady and the health of our watershed.”

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