A clear vision

On Monday night, I attended an interesting community meeting organized by some concerned Crested Butte citizens about a proposed molybdenum mine on neighboring Mt. Emmons.
The meeting hosted speakers from two organizations devoted to fighting the development of a mine, the High Country Citizens’ Alliance and the Red Lady Coalition, along with other residents who each provided a unique perspective on the mountain and mining.
During the evening, a picture emerged of how this battle is being waged beyond the regulatory environment being created by town and county officials.
HCCA has taken up the responsibility of monitoring U.S. Energy (and formerly Kobex Resources) as it attempts to permit mining operations on the mountain. HCCA has a talented full-time staff with mining expertise, who are the watchdogs as this proposal moves forward. For example, the organization alerted the public of Kobex Resource’s plan to drill an exploratory tunnel in Mt. Emmons and announced their intention to contest it before the state Mined Land Reclamation Board. At the same time, HCCA is continuing its colorful campaigns—leading parades, selling prayer flags and bracelets with the Red Lady leading the charge.
The Red Lady Coalition has shouldered the long-term task of finding a permanent end to the threat of mining on Mt. Emmons. Coalition board member Denis Hall listed the group’s accomplishments since it formed last fall. Specifically, he cited the success of the “Big Bite” initiative, which brought a wide range of groups together to call the Forest Service to require full build-out disclosure from the mining company. He also spoke about the Coalition’s relationship with mining analysts from JP Morgan, its new relationship with the law firm DLA Piper, which he said has a pro bono budget of $54 million annually. “That blows my mind, those are the kinds of resources we didn’t have 30 years ago,” he said. Hall said the group is now working hard to attain its non-profit organization status and find another group willing to act as a financial pass-through so it could start fundraising in earnest.
Red Lady Coalition president Bill Ronai said the group is now attempting to convince U.S. Energy to leave. He said that if the community was to take responsibility for the water treatment facility, it would expect to get paid. Ronai said the group would be asking U.S. Energy to open its books to reveal how much it costs to operate and maintain the water treatment facility. However, he could not go into specifics. “I apologize if you think you’re not getting all the message—you’re not—but there’s a reason for it,” he said. Hall was a bit more forthcoming. He said the strategy would be multi-prong and could involve the turnover of the water treatment plant, the purchase of 365 acres of private land and the withdraw from mineral entry of 5,000 acres of unpatented lands through congressional action.
With Monday night’s meeting, a third group of people has emerged. Loosely organized with no identified leaders, the group is hoping to engage citizens in “creative actions” designed to give people a way to contribute to the fight that goes a step beyond monetary donations and letter-writing campaigns. The group’s first effort will be a candlelight processional on Monday, April 21 to show solidarity with the Town Council’s work to revise its protective watershed ordinance.
I think all these groups are performing important tasks and doing an admirable job. None of the groups is perfect—each has some rough edges that need to be worked out. I’d urge HCCA and RLC, particularly the latter, to communicate as thoroughly and efficiently as possible its plans. News that’s been talked about around town shouldn’t wait five weeks before it’s made official. While there’s a danger of tipping your hand, there’s also a risk the public will grow disenchanted if they’re not part of the process. For the new group of citizens, I’d urge them to walk the talk—if you say you want to hear all views on a subject, be respectful of the answers you get.
Most importantly, I’d urge these groups to be upfront and in true communication with each other. As middle school student Jackson Melnick said on Monday night, “We need one clear vision. I think that’s what it’s going to take to be over once and for all.” I couldn’t agree more.
-Aleesha Towns

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