We are pleased to share important news regarding recent developments in our 38-year long effort to Save Red Lady. Recently, and as long urged by HCCA, State and Federal officials are seriously looking at a long-term solution that would permanently protect Mt. Emmons from mining and ensure financial viability for the operation of the Water Treatment Plant (WTP). U.S. Energy, the current owner of the WTP needed to treat acid mine drainage only a few miles upstream of Crested Butte, may not be in a solid financial position to continue operating the WTP based on financial statements the company filed this year. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Town of Crested Butte, Gunnison County, and federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Forest Service, have been meeting to discuss the WTP and a long-term protection of Mt. Emmons in light of U.S. Energy’s declining financial situation.
Last month, EPA and CPDHE invited Freeport-McMoRan to meet at EPA Region VIII offices to discuss the WTP. Freeport-McMoRan is one of the world’s largest mining companies and currently owns and operates the Climax and Henderson molybdenum mines in Colorado. In 2007, Freeport-McMoRan acquired the Phelps Dodge Corporation, making it the parent company of a subsidiary that previously owned the site and constructed the WTP, and in the process acquired potential liability for environmental contamination at the site. Freeport has indicated a commitment to ongoing discussions with regulators to identify a viable long‐term solution at the site. Discussions will be continuing amongst these parties regarding the continued operation of the WTP as well as a permanent solution that would result in a mine-free Red Lady.
In early October, HCCA filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Forest Service’s failure to have any financial coverage for the operation of the WTP. While certainly related to these issues on Mt. Emmons, the lawsuit is on a separate track and is in its early stages. Here at HCCA, we commend the Town and County for engaging the State and Federal regulators in these discussions and are encouraged to see that progress is being made. We are committed to ensuring Red Lady and our water quality is protected for the long-term. We look forward to working with these parties to make sure the result will be a long-term, sustainable, and protective solution for Red Lady and our watershed.