Red Lady Coalition

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The Red Lady Coalition is a group of individuals and organizations whose mission is preservation of a safe, intact and protected Mt. Emmons. This includes preserving the integrity ...

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Historic Town of Crested Butte

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Crested Butte, CO

The official blog of Red Lady Coalition

Red Lady moly mine makes no $ense...

Red Lady Coalition

Same old story
June 14, 2009

My resolve never falters and doubt is not in my vocabulary. No one wants me at the table because my mind is already made up. I don’t blame them because I don’t want to sit at the damned table anyway. I intend to give no quarter and so there is no room for negotiating.

That entrenched, hard-line point of view distilled from over thirty years opposing a molybdenum mine on Mount Emmons. What’s the big deal? The proposed mine would tear up the landscape only a few miles west of Crested Butte under Red Lady Bowl, and all the way over into Ohio Creek. For those who like clean water from their tap, that’s smack in the middle of the town’s municipal watershed. See me, taste me, says the devil’s advocate; this won’t hurt a bit.

“But surely a devil’s advocate is useful,” he added.

“Only as a dependably tiresome literary device,” I answered, “or to help hone arguments.” In some situations a careless devil’s advocate can wreak unimaginable havoc with folks who don’t know who is advocating what and for whom. If you’re playing devil’s advocate just to be a burr under the saddle, make sure you’re on the right horse at the right time.

“To hell with you,” he insisted, “what about jobs? A mine would pump money into the economy for jobs.”

“It would until it didn’t,” I answered. Short-term, some occupations would enjoy some opportunity. But then even those jobs would dry up. Trained and experienced miners would emigrate from places like Nevada. But ultimately even that work force would depart for the next mother lode and mechanization would finish the day’s work. That’s the point: decrease costs—a workforce—and increase profit.

“And what happens when the price of molybdenum tanks?” I continued. “Last year molybdenum was selling for around $35 a pound and everyone wanted a chunk of it. Now you can hardly give the stuff away.”

When molybdenum followed other commodity prices down the toilet, Thompson Creek Metals and most other miners cut production and laid off work force. Thompson Creek is the company which with U.S. Energy, wants to mine Mount Emmons. The here-today-gone-tomorrow scenario is mining’s “boom-and-bust” economic cycle. Dependent on the cyclic nature of commodities prices, boom-bust is unavoidable and for communities at its mercy, ruinous.

Furthermore, even the threat of a major industrial operation could damage our existing economy. Our communities have worked for years to make tourism and alternative economies bear fruit. People wouldn’t be so sanguine about socking millions into building a second home in Crested Butte when they can as easily build somewhere not under threat from a mine.

“But think of all the great things a mine could bring to Gunnison County,” he pressed.

“You mean like in Leadville?” I questioned. The mining company built a swimming pool before it left town, but now the pool won’t hold water and the city can’t afford to fix it. “Or maybe you mean all the roads and bridges the mining company would build to carry its heavy trucks and industrial traffic.”

I paused for a minute to gather my wits. “Wait a minute,” I said. “What is it exactly that a mine will bring into my life?”

“Economic diversity,” stated the advocate confidently and in no uncertain terms.

“You mean after a mine destroys what we have now, our economy will be diverse?”

“Yeah,” he added, “you remember what the old-timers used to say: You can’t eat the scenery? Well, take it to heart. They were right.”

“Maybe fifty years ago,” I acknowledged, “but they’re not right now.”

Even in a lousy national economy, we’re still eating scenery. It may get to be pretty thin soup, and admittedly things aren’t perfect. But at least Gunnison County taxpayers aren’t supporting infrastructure and a population of laid-off workers and unemployed miners from an industry that can’t afford to dig the stuff out of the ground.

“So what is it I’m going to like about a mine…exactly?”

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Bust without boom: the waiting game
December 31, 2008

The price of molybdenum fell from about $35 per pound in October to around $9 a pound at the end of December 2008. This affects Thompson Creek and every other molybdenum producer; Thompson Creek is reducing its capital expenditures to compensate.

None of this will affect anything Thompson Creek is doing in Crested Butte and on Mt. Emmons. The company will keep plodding along, insinuating itself into the community, working through the long-term process of acquiring permits it must show to begin mining.

In the meantime, the company will work on local politics and public relations. Someone who works for the mine will find his way onto the county planning commission. Miners will run for the school board and will seek town council seats in Gunnison and Crested Butte. Thompson Creek will contribute to local charities, and advertise their presence in local parades and celebrations. Mine propaganda will trumpet hollow promises with the goal of ultimately setting us against each other. The mining company will act as if it has always been here, hoping to overcome our opposition by attrition.

Miners will take a long-term, multi-generational approach: They recognize that the first generation fights the mine, the second generation remembers the fight, but the third generation forgets. And by then, of course, a mine would be a done deal. We must never let that happen.

We must also adopt a multi-generational approach, and once and for all put an end to the idea that a big mining company can destroy local economies and displace local communities. I want my children to remember the fight, but I want my grandchildren to know the story too. I don’t want them to accept the reality of a mountain no longer there.
Posted by Denis B. Hall
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If people are wise...
December 5, 2008

Leadville is a prime example of what a large mine can do to a nearby town. Once--many decades ago--the surroundings must have been beautiful. But what was originally an underground mine ended by removing much of a mountain and creating not just a tailings pond but a huge, ugly lake of polluted tailings.

Then the Climax mine shut down. To find jobs, Leadville residents found themselves forced to commute many miles to work at ski areas not menaced by mines. Then the town decided, as the International Herald Tribune reported on February 28, 2008, to recast itself as a tourist destination--though plagued by what the article termed the wreckage of a century of mining, most recently the threat of rising levels of contaminated water.

Then the mine was to reopen--but as NIna Cotton notes, the reopening is delayed, and who knows for how long. When and if it does reopen, the tailings lake will have to be expanded further, as the Summit Daily News recently reported; see http://www.summitdaily.com/article/20080824/NEWS/1852/1078&ParentProfile=1055 .

Today, people drive through Leadville but few stay for more than a cheeseburger.

Just one statistic. If you look at www.simplyhired.com you will read that the median cost of a home in the town of Crested Butte is $301,100, although recent sales prices have been much higher and there are many larger homes outside town. In Leadville, in any case, the figure is just one-third of that, $106,300.

Leadvile’s is not a case of mining town prosperity--or prosperity of any sort--and not in any way a history to be repeated at Crested Butte, if people are wise.
Posted by Peter Bridges
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