Freeport-McMoRan agrees help permanently remove mining claims from Mount Emmons

October 3, 2016

The long-running battle over the molybdenum deposit in Mount Emmons near Crested Butte, CO could be coming to a conclusion as mining claim owner Freeport-McMoRan has inked a preliminary deal to permanently remove mining claims from the site and return about 9,000 acres to the U.S. Forest Service.

The Denver Post reported that Crested Butte voters will be asked to approve use of the town’s real estate transfer tax to fund a $2 million payment to Freeport’s Mount Emmons Mining Co. Town leaders soon will visit Washington seeking bipartisan support for legislation that would permanently remove the mining claims from 12,343-foot high Mount Emmons, known as the Red Lady thanks to the pink hue it takes on as alpenglow dances across the snowy slope above downtown. The deposit is believed to contain 25 million tons and the mine would have employed about 1,000 people.

Freeport acquired U.S. Energy ‘s Mount Emmons mine site in February, taking on responsibility for the water treatment plant. If U.S. Energy had gone bankrupt, the operation of plant and Keystone Mine cleanup would have reverted to the previous owner of the Mount Emmons claims.

Mount Emmons Mining in the spring approached Crested Butte’s town leaders with a plan. The company, which never actually mined on Mount Emmons, offered to sell its mining claims and work with local leaders on a long-term plan for maintaining the water treatment plant.

“As the previous owner of the site and water treatment plant, Mount Emmons wanted to ensure sustained operation of the water treatment plant that discharges to Coal Creek,” said Freeport spokesman Eric E. Kinneberg.

First, the company said it would prefund two years of operation of the water treatment plant. And second, if the town came up with $2 million, Freeport said it would ask the federal government to withdraw all the unpatented mining claims from the mountain, permanently removing any chance of a mine on Red Lady.

In the Sept. 6 memorandum of understanding, Freeport and the town said they understand the deal is “only a first step in a long-term relationship,” and they they will work on other agreements.

For the full story from The Denver Post, click here.

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