Moly mining group purchases Carbon Creek ranch and water

HCCA and RLC say secrecy is disturbing

The director of Community Relations for the Mount Emmons Moly Company, Perry Anderson, spent part of his summer working a ranch on Carbon Creek.



“It was beautiful,” said Anderson.
The old Highlands Ranch was bought last February by Highlands Ranch LLC, a limited liability company comprised of two partners, Thomson Creek Metals Company and U.S. Energy. Both are working toward mining molybdenum from Mt. Emmons.
Anderson said the companies purchased the 160-acre ranch and water rights that came with the property. He said the ranch came with 5.5 cubic feet per second (CFS) of water. It is located at the end of the Carbon Creek road east of Carbon Peak.
“The ranch is basically an inholding surrounded by Forest Service property,” he explained. “The property wasn’t bought by the mining project because we aren’t sure if it will be part of the project. But it is strategically located in the area around the unpatented mining claims. It made sense to purchase it at this time.”
Anderson said that given Colorado water law, which requires that water rights must be put to beneficial use in order to be held, the land was irrigated and cattle were grazed on the property all summer.
High Country Citizens’ Alliance executive director Dan Morse is not surprised by the purchase, given the location of the ranch, but he is disappointed in how it was conducted. “The way in which they purchased the property, the secrecy and it being kept under wraps for eight months, is really consistent with the overall approach Thompson Creek is taking with public involvement… which is to avoid it at all costs,” he said. “That’s disappointing. That shouldn’t be the way a major, forthright mining company should do business.”
Morse said the property is located adjacent to unpatented mining claims owned by U.S. Energy. “It’s in the vicinity of the area where tailings ponds for the project have been proposed in the past,” Morse explained. “Its also adjacent to an area where U.S. Energy has existing water rights for a water storage reservoir.”
According to Morse, if the mining companies want to change the use of the 5.5 CFS of water that came with the ranch, they would have to go to the state water engineer and file a “change case.” They would have to prove to the state that changing the use of the water from ranching to mining purposes wouldn’t affect senior or junior water rights downstream.
Red Lady Coalition president Bill Ronai is also bothered by the way the ranch was purchased. “It’s unfortunate that the mining company Thompson Creek Metals and its partner are averse to transparency,” he said. “The proposed mine has the potential to be a major destroyer of value in terms of jobs and income, in this predominately amenity-driven economy that spans the Gunnison-Crested Butte corridor. The citizens deserve better.”
Morse also feels the impact on the valley could be significant. “In our view, the purchase is unfortunate in many ways,” said Morse. “It was a premier ranching property and they are looking to change it to be used for intensive mining uses. It’s a beautiful area up there and this would be a dramatic change. The shame and threat of it for that valley is if you have depletions of water in Carbon Creek, you run a real risk of decreased water quality and that could impact fishing in the creek for miles.”
Anderson said there was not an attempt to hide the purchase. “It made sense to buy it now but no one knows if it will be part of the project,” he explained in response to the concerns of Morse and Ronai. “To the best of my knowledge, because the purchase was a joint venture with the two companies, they formed an LLC to purchase the ranch. It made it a cleaner transaction. The Mount Emmons project will buy it, if it becomes a part of the project.”
As for the overall molybdenum mine project, Anderson said it is slowly moving forward. “We are still working on the pre-feasibility study and that’s about the only thing going on at the moment,” he said. “It’s pretty quiet right now.”
As of Tuesday, molybdenum was selling for about $13.50 a pound, down from $18 a pound in August, and over $30 a pound last fall.

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