Losing the name Lucky Jack…
The latest company to take on the idea of mining molybdenum from Mt. Emmons is starting over.
Company executives want to revisit every aspect of a mine on Red Lady, and they want to get their message out that a mine can be a good neighbor and a big benefit to Gunnison County.
Thompson Creek Metals Company chairman and chief executive officer Kevin Loughrey came to the valley last week and met with several community leaders. Along with Mount Emmons Project general manager Larry Clark, he sat down with representatives of Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Western State College, the Red Lady Coalition and local government officials to lay out their case and to hear what they had to say.
During the final meeting of Thursday, October 30, Loughrey and Clark sat down with the Crested Butte News in the lobby of Mountaineer Square. Here are some highlights:
Take nothing on faith
Saying they had had a good reception from the people they met during their visit, the two outlined in detail their ideas of a mine on Red Lady. They promised good-paying jobs.
They expected to give the tax roles a big bump. They promised to use the college as a feeder source for mining jobs. They claimed that a mine would be barely noticeable to the tourists and second-home owners who vacation in and around Crested Butte.
“We’re not asking anyone to take on faith that we can do something here that is positive,” said Loughrey. “We are asking people to give us the opportunity to demonstrate to them that we can do something positive. We think we can mine, process and sell molybdenum from Mt. Emmons and do it in a way that is safe for the environment, good for the community, bring a lot of jobs in, diversify the economy of Crested Butte without detracting from any of the unique attributes that Crested Butte has as a recreational and tourist destination community and economy.”
Loughrey understands that Thompson Creek will be under the gun in Crested Butte.
“There’s a great, high-grade, high-quality, moly deposit. It’s the best one in the world in my opinion that’s not been developed to date,” he said. “And so, we think that’s a great starting point. And we will take that starting point and move forward with the community and with the multiplicity of regulators who have a say on what we do.”
“We can’t move a shovel of dirt, we can’t move any water, we can’t do anything, without state and federal and county regulators overseeing us,” he continued. “We have to demonstrate to them that we can do this in a way that’s satisfactory to them and meets all the legal requirements. So it’s not as though anybody has to accept this on faith. We have to prove it before we go forward. And we think we can do that and my experience is that in the communities in which we operate, people think we’re fine. They like to have us there. They worry about what happens when we leave.”
Lucky Jack strikes out
Note that the “Lucky Jack” moniker is gone and replaced with the Mount Emmons Project. Lucky Jack “had too much of a gambler’s feel to it,” said Clark. “That’s not the brand we want.”
“When you read the molybdenum literature in the world, what there is of it, everyone knows that deposit as the Mount Emmons Project and that’s what we are calling it,” added Loughrey.
During their visit, they also noticed that one of the main ski lifts at the base of Crested Butte Mountain Resort was named Red Lady. They commented that they felt a mine could keep that a good name.
Setting up shop
Loughrey, the former general counsel for the Cyprus-Amax mining company, indicated Thompson Creek is here for the long run. Now that his company has control over the moly deposit in Mt. Emmons, he wants to begin the process anew of getting to that deposit.
“We are going back to the drawing board,” he explained. “We’re starting at square one. We have an opportunity to do a mine on Mt. Emmons and do it correctly—to make it the right size, to make sure we understand the deposit, to make it perform in a way that is compatible with the way things work in Crested Butte, to listen to the concerns of the community and try to address as many of those reasonable concerns as we can.”
Loughrey emphasized he wants an open process that involves public input. But he knows that there will be some concerns that can’t be addressed to the satisfaction of everybody.
“We can’t answer every concern. Nobody can. But we can answer a lot of them,” he said. “So, we have an opportunity here to do something right and do something correctly and do in the way the citizens of Crested Butte are content with. Now we will acknowledge, maybe we can’t get this done. Maybe something crops up that we don’t foresee right now. Maybe there’s a technical problem, a reserve problem, a water problem. That’s always possible. For every ten projects that get started, I don’t know how many get done, but it’s not ten. Some things don’t ever develop.”
Thompson Creek plans to open offices in both Gunnison and Crested Butte. They say they want to provide regular updates during the permitting process to the public. While they have started meeting some of the “leaders” in the Gunnison Valley, they anticipate a general public meeting after they have a more detailed plan on paper. That isn’t expected to be for many months.
A mine under the mountain… water and air
At this point, Loughrey and Clark claim they envision an underground mine that is practically invisible from Crested Butte. They don’t see an industrial pipeline of haul trucks coming through Crested Butte. They do see hundreds of jobs being created in the valley and property values increasing. They don’t know where the tailings will be located but they say it will be hidden. They know they have to meet state, federal and county regulations. And they anticipate pushback from the community and potential lawsuits in the court. Given all that, they anticipate seeing the first pound of molybdenum come out of a potential mine sometime in the next decade.
“Sometime after five years if things go well, I think you could be in the construction process and mining but I bet it will be closer to ten years before you’re up and running,” said Loughrey. “I don’t know that for a fact and things could change.”
Clark postulated, “Now, if I had to guess a number, I’d say you are looking at six to eight years to get the mine into production. You are probably looking at three years of permitting process, but that doesn’t count lawsuits.”
One thing they are not too worried about is damaging the water and air quality in the area.
“This is sort of at the heart of what we do,” said Loughrey.
“Nowadays, we have water quality people, we have environmental technicians, we have engineers who do nothing but monitor water control and water balance. We monitor constantly. To say ‘Are you doing anything about water quality?’ today is a question a mining guy doesn’t understand. Of course we are. We are doing it every day. It is at the essence of what we do and if we can’t do it in a way that convinces very skeptical government regulators and community watchdogs, we’re not going forward. We’re stuck. We’ll close up the office and go home and try to find another place to build a moly mine.”
Jobs, jobs, jobs….
According to Loughrey and Clark, a moly mine brings hundreds of jobs to an area. They admit that many of the specialized mining positions that pay well will be filled by professional miners who don’t currently live here, but they say that their families will relocate to the area and be positive contributors to the community.
“We would hire as many people from the local community as we could,” promised Loughrey. “I can’t tell you what that number would be…”
Loughrey and Clark will go into more details about the job opportunities and other aspects of the proposed mine in Part 2 of our interview with the Thompson Creek Metals executives. That will run in the November 14 issue of the Crested Butte News. A complete transcript of the interview can be read at www.crestedbuttenews.com.