Congressman request review of proposed Crested Butte mine |

Congressman request review of proposed Crested Butte mine

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” Colorado congressmen John Salazar and Mark Udall have asked the federal government to make sure a company that wants to develop a mine on top of a western Colorado mountain has a valid claim to the public land.

Groups opposing a proposed molybdenum mine on top of Mount Emmons near Crested Butte are praising the Democrats’ request. Opponents, whose lawsuits to stop the mine failed, say federal officials rejected a similar request from them last year.

Dan Morse of the High Country Citizens’ Alliance said the conservation group appreciates the congressmen’s efforts on an issue of importance to the Crested Butte community.

Udall and Salazar sent a letter last week to federal land managers about the mine. U.S. Energy Corp. wants to develop the mine on federal land it bought under an 1872 mining law and on surrounding public land.

They’re asking that federal officials review whether the company has a valid claim to the public land before approving any development plans. That involves determining whether the company has discovered an “economically recoverable” mineral.

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Officials with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management said they’re preparing a response to Udall and Salazar.

In April, U.S. Energy, based in Riverton, Wyo., said it hired a consultant to develop a mining engineering study for the Lucky Jack mine. U.S. Energy president Mark Larsen said the study will give the company a better understanding “of the economics of this world-class molybdenum deposit …”

Area residents and elected officials have fought proposals for a mine on Mount Emmons, nicknamed “The Red Lady” because of the color of the rocks.

Some of the land on Mount Emmons was sold under an 1872 hard-rock mining law, which applies to gold, silver, molybdenum and other minerals and allows people to patent ” or buy ” public land for mining at low prices.

The High Country Citizens’ Alliance joined local elected officials in challenging the sale of federal land to private companies. They argued the BLM shouldn’t have sold the site because the buyer couldn’t show that the mine would be profitable as required by federal law.

Federal courts rejected the argument. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled in 2006 that only people with a competing claim to ownership can challenge such sales, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

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