Experimenting with new water treatment systems
By Mark Reaman
In a sign of the improved relationship between the town of Crested Butte and the owner of the Keystone Mine on Mt. Emmons, Dave Gosen of the Mt. Emmons Mining Company (MEMCO) updated the Crested Butte town Council about improvements at the facility this week.
Gosen came to the council for an August 19 work session and spent about half an hour going over what the mining company, a subsidiary of global mining company Freeport McMoRan, has done since they acquired the property from U.S. Energy in 2016.
“We have spent the time since 2016 figuring out exactly what we acquired and how best to manage what we’ve acquired,” Gosen said.
Gosen said the water treatment plant was commissioned in 1980, so is considered pretty old. The plant treats water from various sources and MEMCO is experimenting with two pilot programs to test different treatment systems. The two technologies are in the experimental phase and Gosen admitted, “It would be a few years before any new system is implemented. There is no timeline.”
Gosen said in 2018 the company replaced a major piece of equipment in the water treatment plant called a filter press. A hole had to be cut in the roof of the plant to get the new machine inside and he said it took probably nine months to get the new equipment up to snuff. The machine basically removes the water from the processed sludge. The sludge is then mixed with concrete and taken to the county landfill. An older filter press remains onsite as a backup.
Gosen said some re-vegetation work was done on the mine site in 2018, while this year some ditch and road improvements were made, along with some slope improvements.
Responding to a question from mayor Jim Schmidt, Gosen said if for some reason Freeport or another mining company wanted to actively mine the molybdenum in Red Lady, “It would take a lot of money. It would probably require all new underground workings just to start.”
“We appreciate the update and this improved communication and relationship with Freeport,” said Schmidt, “especially compared to the previous owners.”