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Group touts mining as part of ‘new energy economy’

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – Mining officials gathered at the Colorado Mining Association’s three-day conference this week say the “new energy economy,” usually associated with renewable energy, starts with their industry.

The purpose of the Denver conference that runs through Thursday is to raise awareness of the link between U.S minerals and energy security, Stuart Sanderson, the trade group’s president, said this week.

Materials such as molybdenum and silver are needed to make wind turbines and solar panels, Sanderson said. But the country imports many minerals it could be producing, he said.

“We have a critical dependence on countries, many of them, of course, not exactly friendly to the United States,” Sanderson said. The industry must make its case for more domestic production and policies to streamline permitting for mines, he said.

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Hal Quinn, National Mining Association president and chief executive, said coal and other traditional energy sources will continue to be necessary for reliable, reasonably priced power, and they will provide the bulk of the nation’s energy.

Renewable energy advocates say wind and solar power are becoming more economical and will help the country cut greenhouse gas emissions. A 25-year contract for a NextEra Energy Resources wind farm in northeastern Colorado initially sets its rate at $50 per megawatt hour and gradually raises the cost to $80 per megawatt-hour, said Craig Cox, executive director of Colorado-based Interwest Energy Alliance, a trade and advocacy group.

“That’s 25 years of cost stability,” Cox said. “It illustrates the predictability of wind energy and value as a hedge against price volatility.”

Renewable energy’s costs are upfront, Cox said. “After that, the fuel is free,” he said.

Colorado is the country’s leading producer of molybdenum and the No. 4 gold-producing state, according to the state mining association. The value of minerals produced in 2008 was more than $2 billion, the group said.


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