High Country Conservation Advocates Geared Up to Continue Protecting Clean Water and the Community from Proposed Mine

August 15, 2014

For More Information Contact:

Alli Melton, High Country Conservation Advocates Public Lands Director, (970) 349-7104 ext. 2

Crested Butte, CO—Thursday, August 14, 2014, U.S. Energy Corporation, the owner of mine claims on Mt Emmons, or Red Lady­ as called by locals, withdrew its application for a clean-up proposal of the historic Keystone Mine. The proposal had been before the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The historic Keystone Mine is located on Red Lady and contributes to acid mine drainage. Currently this contaminated water is treated at an existing water treatment plant on U.S. Forest Service land. After treatment, the water is discharged into Coal Creek, which runs through Crested Butte. U.S. Energy is required to operate the water treatment plant to treat the contaminated water. The treatment plant does not have an approved plan for operating, is not bonded, and costs U.S. Energy around $2 million annually to operate.

“U.S. Energy’s decision to withdraw its application demonstrates that the company is not willing to take the necessary steps to ensure our water and community would be safe from potentially devastating water contamination,” said Alli Melton, High Country Conservation Advocates Public Lands Director. “Indeed, U.S. Energy stated in this same letter that it intends to focus on permitting, construction, and mining on Red Lady. This makes it only clearer that U.S. Energy is not interested in protecting our water and our community from negative health and environmental impacts of mining.”

High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA) and Red Lady Coalition (RLC), local Crested Butte non-profits, hired Integral Consulting, Inc. to conduct a thorough evaluation of the cleanup proposal and submitted joint comment regarding the proposal in July 2014. The comments raised concern that the plan would not ensure a safe and effective cleanup of the historic Keystone Mine site’s contaminated water. The groups also shared concerns that drinking water from nearby wells and the Town of Crested Butte’s water source could be negatively affected.

“HCCA repeatedly stated the necessity for ensuring the proposed cleanup would be safe and effective,” stated Ms. Melton. “The proposal was complicated, proposing to plug four mine entrances and allow water to back-up behind them and be passively treated. We wanted to prevent this proposed cleanup from leading to continued or additional contamination. We’ve already seen similar plug approaches fail in Leadville and Silverton and want to protect our community from those outcomes.”

 

HCCA’s and RLC’s letter requested that the State Agency reviewing the proposal ensure U.S. Energy provided them with the necessary information to determine and establish a proper monitoring regime, contingency plan, and best design practices so the proposal would be less likely to put water resources and the community at risk. “HCCA is pleased that our State Agency continued to ask for additional information throughout this process and continues to take the communities concerns about our water seriously,” said Ms. Melton.

 

Last month, HCCA discovered that U.S. Energy had been simultaneously pursuing the next steps for a proposed mine by submitting a Plan of Operations (PoO) for gathering baseline data that would be used for environmental analysis of a proposed mine. HCCA submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the U.S. Forest Service requesting the full plan and related documents. “This information is essential for assessing the risks and scale of intrusion U.S. Energy is proposing, stated Ms. Melton. “We are eagerly awaiting the results, which will be shared with the community and are vital to ensuring our clean water and community are protected.”