Red Lady Coalition

Mission Statement

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 ...


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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