This year has been unprecedented in progress towards a permanently mine-free Mt. Emmons. At the headwaters of the Town of Crested Butte’s municipal watershed and rising up from the western flank of Town, this iconic mountain, endearingly known as Red Lady, has been under relentless threat of proposed molybdenum mine since the 1970s. After 39 years of tireless effort to permanently protect this mountain, Ballot Issue 2A moves the Town of Crested Butte closer than ever to a permanently mine-free Red Lady.
Ballot Issue 2A is a ballot measure that would authorize the Town to utilize $2 million from the Town’s Land Transfer Excise Tax Fund to pay the Mt. Emmons Mining Company (“MEMC”, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Freeport-McMoRan, Inc., collectively “MEMC/Freeport”) to permanently dispose of its mining and millsite claims on Mt. Emmons and in the nearby watersheds. The approved ballot language reads: “for the Purposes of Preventing Mining Activity on Mt. Emmons.” This ballot measure gives Town of Crested Butte citizens the chance to change the future of mining on Mt. Emmons (Red Lady), in perpetuity.
Ballot Issue 2A does not raise taxes. Ballot Issue 2A pertains only to the mining and millsite claims that MEMC/Freeport owns. It does not affect MEMC/Freeport’s obligation to operate the water treatment plant three miles out of town that treats acid mine drainage from the old Keystone Mine workings. It does help pave the way for a community and company supported Congressional withdrawal of lands on Mt. Emmons and in nearby watersheds where these claims are located. A congressional withdrawal is necessary to remove these lands from the General Mining Law of 1872. Once a congressional withdrawal is in effect, any existing claims can be disposed of without any threat or fear of re-staking and re-claiming under this archaic law. The funds would only be transferred to MEMC/Freeport after a withdrawal is passed by Congress, ratified by the President, and MEMC/Freeport has abandoned the claims. Accordingly, if the Ballot Issue passes, MEMC/Freeport will relinquish its claims once the withdrawal is in place, leading to a permanently mine-free Red Lady.
Ballot Issue 2A is a never-before-seen opportunity the Crested Butte community has hoped for over decades and would help secure the congressional withdrawal needed to keep our watershed mine-free. High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA) is very pleased that Crested Butte has the chance to effectuate a mine-free future, and we look forward to working with the Town, Gunnison County, MEMC/Freeport, and the Crested Butte community towards achieving this long sought-after goal.