High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA) is pleased to support another significant step in the community’s 39-year long effort to Save Red Lady (also known as Mt. Emmons). On Tuesday, September 6, 2016, the Crested Butte Town Council will consider Resolution 27, Series 2016, which 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.) to permanently dispose of its mining and millsite claims on Mt. Emmons and the nearby watersheds. The proposed ballot language states that the use of the money is: “for the Purposes of Preventing Mining Activity on Mt. Emmons.” According to the staff report to the Town Council for the September 6th meeting, the ballot measure, if passed, “will allow the citizens of the Town of Crested Butte to decide whether to end the threat of mining on Mt. Emmons.”
According to a proposed Memorandum of Intent (MOI) between MEMC and the Town, the payment of the $2 million would be contingent upon the permanent withdrawal (by Congress) of approximately 9,000 acres of federal land currently covered by MEMC’s mining and millsite claims from claiming and use under the 1872 Mining Law. According to the staff report: “The payment of $2 million by the Town will not occur until the withdrawal is passed by Congress, ratified by the President, and MEMC abandons the claims.” As part of this historic agreement, MEMC pledged in the MOI to fully support and use its efforts to convince Congress to permanently close these lands to mining. The proposed MOI will also be considered by the Town Council at the September 6th meeting.
Importantly, the MOI and ballot measure will not affect MEMC/Freeport’s current and ongoing obligation to operate the water treatment plant that treats acid mine drainage from the old Keystone mine workings (owned by MEMC/Freeport) before they are discharged into Coal Creek above the Town. As noted in the staff report to the Town Council: “The proposed withdrawal in no way obligates the Town for the future operation of the existing water plant. MEMC will continue to have this obligation to operate the plant through their permit with CDPHE and under its obligations through the Clean Water Act.”
“We are pleased to support both the proposed ballot measure and the new MOI,” said Brett Henderson, Executive Director of HCCA. “The intent of the ballot measure, which is aimed at ‘preventing mining activity on Mt. Emmons,’ has been HCCA’s goal since we formed to stop the initial mine proposal in the 1970s,” noted Henderson. “We commend the Town, the County, and the MEMC/Freeport for their continued efforts at finally bringing an end to the threat of mining on Red Lady,” said Henderson. “We look forward to working with the Town, the County, MEMC/Freeport, and the Crested Butte community towards achieving this long-sought-after goal.”
*On Tuesday, September 6, 2016, the Crested Butte Town Council considered and approved unanimously Resolution 27, Series 2016, the ballot resolution aimed at preventing mining on Mt. Emmons.