Local officials react to Thompson Creek meetings

“He is missing the key issue…”

Those who met with the Thompson Creek Metals chairman and chief executive officer Kevin Loughrey last week say they were impressed with the man, but not the message.



Loughrey, along with Mount Emmons project general manager Larry Clark, held a series of meetings with community leaders from Gunnison and Crested Butte last Thursday, October 30.
According to an email from Mount Emmons project community relations director Perry Anderson, “We met with the Gunnison Country Times, the county manager, college officials, Gunnison business community and chamber members, the Gunnison city manager and mayor, the town of Crested Butte town manager, Red Lady Coalition members, CBMR officials and you (the Crested Butte News).”
Crested Butte Mountain Resort chief operating officer Ken Stone sat down with Loughrey and Clark in Mt. Crested Butte and tried to explain the concerns of the ski area.
“I think they were trying to reach out to the stakeholders of the community and their biggest message was that they were throwing out the current plan and starting over,” he said. “They feel there is a way to have a mine here that is compatible with the current resort economy and we told them that we feel a molybdenum mine on Mt. Emmons goes against what we’re trying to do in Crested Butte.
“While we respect our heritage in Crested Butte, we don’t want to go back to mining,” continued Stone. “The mix of tourism and part-time homeowners we have here in the valley agrees with that. They don’t want a big change and mining doesn’t fit into their impression of what we have going on here. Sustainability as we see it, revolves around a recreation economy. A mine doesn’t fit into that.”
It was the protection of the recreation-based economy in the area that Red Lady Coalition president Bill Ronai tried to impress on Loughrey. “The issue from the perspective of the Red Lady Coalition is that no matter what kind of benefits a proposed mine may offer, it will be more than off-set by the value destruction of our existing amenity- and knowledge-based economy,” he explained. “I was not persuaded by his argument.”
Ronai said Loughrey is a businessman, “and he states his case very well but it misses the key issue. He comports himself like the professional CEO that he is. He came across very well in the half hour I spent with him but he kept missing the key issue for this area. The idea of a mine hurts our economy.”
Stone used the example of CBMR being approached by Humvee to be a sponsor at the ski resort. He said the military vehicles did not mesh well with the ski area brand.
“They said that in reality, the vehicles have gotten to a point where they have better gas mileage than a lot of other SUV vehicles. But no matter what, that type of partnership didn’t make sense,” said Stone. “It’s perception vs. reality and a lot of times, perception is more important. If people hear there is a mine in Crested Butte, they won’t come—and it could be the cleanest mine in the world but that doesn’t matter. So we tried to get across the idea that we don’t want to hurt our recreational economy and what we’re trying to do here.”
Crested Butte town manager Susan Parker said Loughrey came across as very confident and determined but their conversation centered on water and Crested Butte watershed issues. “They said they are starting over with their plans and they certainly came across as having been in this situation before. They know what they’re doing. It seems they understand the rights they have and know what they have to do to get their permits at the various levels.”
Gunnison city manager Ken Coleman said the meeting he attended with the Thompson Creek executives was very general in nature.
“There wasn’t a lot of details discussed,” Coleman said. “It seemed like a typical outreach meeting and they were there to introduce themselves to people. They said they wanted to restart their planning process and admitted they had a lot of information gathering and research to do in the next several months. It seemed like they were talking about a fairly long-range planning effort.”
Stone isn’t sure the mining executives understand the community. “They talked about meeting resistance in communities and that’s part of the deal, and Loughrey implied all communities were pretty much the same in that regard. I beg to differ with them. I’ve lived a lot of places and this community is different. And I agree that this place, by far, has the opportunity to remain true to what it represents.
“Overall, I think they heard what we said,” Stone concluded. “And we are open to listening but I told them this community is steadfast in its opposition to a mine. We were civil about it. We’re always going to be civil and consider things, but I don’t see us changing our minds. The short-term gain doesn’t balance out the long-term damage. I enjoyed meeting them and it’s nothing personal—but that’s the way it is.”
Loughrey has indicated that once the company comes close to putting a new plan on paper, a general public meeting will be held for the benefit of the community.

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