“It’s just up in air at this point”
Developers of the proposed Lucky Jack mine say they plan to delay submission of their plan of operation to the U.S. Forest Service once again as they continue to gather information for the extensive report, according to community liaison Perry Anderson.
Anderson says US Energy/ Kobex will not submit the plan of operation by March 31 (the first quarter of the year) as they had previously announced.
“We decided there are additional elements that we need to prove out in the lab and in the field,” Anderson says, noting one such aspect is related to the tailings and the technology used to treat them.
Anderson says it is unknown when the report will be submitted. “It’s just up in the air at this point,” Anderson adds.
The mining companies had originally planned to submit the plan of operation by the end of 2007. However, Chief operating officer for Kobex, Maurice Tagami, announced last November the companies were delaying submitting the plan of operation until the first quarter of 2008 because they were evaluating information collected at community forums held in October.
Anderson says that information is still being reviewed and could not comment on whether or not it would be incorporated into the report. “We are always listening to different alternatives, and trying to incorporate the suggestions,” Anderson says.
Anderson adds the mining companies are planning another public meeting, but the date and/or location of such meeting has not been determined. It could possibly be around the same time the plan of operation is submitted. “We want the public to know what we’ve been working on,” Anderson adds.
Red Lady Coalition board member Denis Hall says the opposition organization is not surprised by the announcement as it had anticipated the mining companies might react in such a fashion because of the “Big Bite” effort.
The Big Bite effort was a campaign, which garnered the support of over 60 businesses and organizations, by the Red Lady Coalition requesting the U.S. Forest Service to compel the Lucky Jack mine owners US Energy/ Kobex to provide a full potential build-out analysis within their mining proposal. The coalition presented the “Big Bite” position paper to the Forest Service on Tuesday, December 13. The City of Gunnison and Town of Crested Butte sent individual letters to the Forest Service requesting the same.
The Red Lady Coalition, comprised of concerned individuals and organizations from throughout the Gunnison Valley, is committed to protecting Mt. Emmons and surrounding waterways from the potential impacts of mining.
Mine proponents have indicated thus far that they intend to only ask the Forest Service to permit a limited-scope mining operation that contemplates extracting only the highest-grade ore from the mountain.
However, the Red Lady Coalition says that if the price is right, the mine might continue to extract the lower quality ore from surrounding deposits. Only 22 million tons of the 220 million tons of molybdenum in Mt. Emmons are considered high grade. The remaining molybdenum is considered low-grade ore with mineral concentration averaging between .35 percent and .60 percent.
High County Citizens’ Alliance mineral resources director Bob Salter agrees the delay may be in part to the efforts of the “Big Bite” campaign as it raised important issues with the permitting agency.
“I believe the campaign may have sent the companies back to the drawing board,” Salter says. “They may challenge it or they may choose to submit a plan that does include a full build out scenario.”
Hall says a full build out analysis would require a great deal more information and time. He says he doubts the mining companies could produce such a document in the near future thus further delaying it from being submitted.
Lucky Jack is owned and operated by a conglomeration of companies, primarily Kobex Resources Ltd. and U.S. Energy Corp. The companies acquired more than 5,000 claims in mining patents on Mt. Emmons, known locally as Red Lady, and an accompanying water treatment plant as the result of a 2005 district court ruling.
Shortly after U.S. Energy re-acquired the property, the company announced its intent to pursue a molybdenum mining project on Mt. Emmons and renamed it the “Lucky Jack” project. Mt. Emmons is believed to hold one of the world’s largest deposits of molybdenum and is predicted to have 22 million tons of high-grade molybdenum ore and 220 million tons of low-grade molybdenum ore—more than the Henderson mine or Climax mine.