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Mountain Town News

Complied by Allen Best
Aspen Times Weekly

Do you support renewable energy? Energy independence? If so, then you’d better support domestic miners, says Jim Burnell, of the Colorado Geological Survey.

Burnell recently spoke in Ouray, a one-time mining town on the edge of the rich mining districts of the San Juan Mountains. His speech was reported by the Ouray Watch, a companion of The Telluride Watch.

Solar panels, batteries and hybrid cars all contain the kinds of minerals that were historically mined in Colorado.

“Cadmium-tellurium photovoltaics ” these would take over the world if one of these minerals weren’t so rare,” he said. The most important element, tellurium, is the namesake for Telluride.

Concentrated solar power, which many energy experts say is the most crucial technology necessary to reduce greenhouse gases, uses aluminum or silver. And the tubes used to transport the energy contain molybdenum, said Burnell. Colorado has one active molybdenum mine, located just north of the Eisenhower Tunnel, with another mine scheduled to reopen soon between Copper Mountain and Leadville. A third is proposed at Crested Butte.

Colorado also has zinc, which is necessary for certain types of fuel cells.

Of the minerals and metals needed for production of alternative energy, only a few ” selenium, vanadium, bromine and copper ” come primarily from domestic U.S. sources. Most of the rest are imported, primarily from China. Perhaps not coincidentally, nearly all batteries and photovoltaic panels are also imported.

That means that renewable energy may be possible, but given current policies, not energy independence.

“Achieving energy independence by means of alternative energy technology can’t be done without domestic mining,” Burnell said. “Moving to renewable energy technologies is inconsistent with anti-mining advocacy.”

While there is no such thing as no-impact mining, the impacts to environmental and human health are much more minimal than in the past, he said.

Colorado Goldfields Inc., which several years ago set out to resume mining and ore processing in the Silverton area, says it’s within 18 months of profitability. The company spent the summer drilling in Ross Basin. The current plans call for work to begin in May to reactivate the Pride of the West, a gravity, flotation and cyanide leach mill located near Silverton. The goal is to start accepting ore from other properties in the San Juans beginning next September, and then begin drilling for ore in a nearby mine called the Gold King that is owned by Goldfields.

Violations of the federal ozone standard have already been registered in New Mexico’s San Juan County, and they could be ahead for Colorado’s La Plata County.

The ground-level ozone, explains the Durango Telegraph, is the result of tens of thousands of compressors used at oil and gas wells in the San Juan Basin from Durango south to Farmington, plus industrial facilities, the exhaust from two coal-fired power plants, and the emissions of motor vehicles.

Christopher Dann, of the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division, told the newspaper that non-attainment could also be in store for Colorado’s La Plata County, where Durango is located. While the energy industry is partly to blame for the pollution, he said “the “region’s booming population is also coming into play, and you’re seeing more cars and more emissions all the time.”

Voter registration has increased substantially in Summit County, reports The Park Record. Two-thirds of new voters have aligned with the Democratic Party, but the Democrats remain the smallest voting bloc. Nearly 16,200 voters are independent, while 6,845 are Republican, and 3,579 are Democrats. Another 650 align with other parties. In addition to Park City, the county includes a place called Snyderville Basin, a bedroom community to Salt Lake City, which is a half-hour away.

The transfer of development rights program is being used for the first time in the Wood River Valley, where Ketchum and Sun Valley are located. A 117-acre parcel that has rights to develop five lots is instead transferring those rights to a subdivision near the town of Hailey, where 19 lots are now permissible. Officials in Blaine County tell the Idaho Mountain Express that few landowners have been willing to place their development rights in so-called sending areas ” areas where county officials would prefer not to see development ” into the pool available for transfer.

In such programs, development rights become a commodity, meaning there is a price attached to them, so that a developer near a town could buy the development rights from a rural landowner. In Colorado, both Aspen and Summit County have highly developed programs.

John and Jewel Andrew, who are well into their retirement, stopped by Sun Valley recently. Twelve years ago they decided to ski all the alpine resorts in North America, and so far they’ve accomplished that at 505 ski hills from Alaska to Georgia.

“Hill” might seem like an exaggeration for some of these ski areas, observes the Idaho Mountain Express. For example, New York’s Sawkill Family Ski Center has only 70 vertical feet. The average in North American is 948 feet.

Many of the ski hills are operating on a shoestring. John, who is 77, says he insists on paying, even though most ski areas want to give him a free lift ticket when they discover his age.

Another 200 or so ski areas remain on the couple’s list, with 40 to 60 each in Ontario, Quebec, New York and Michigan. “Our goal of skiing all of North America may be forever elusive,” John Andrew told the newspaper. Still, he didn’t sound the least bit rueful about the quest. Sensible retired people, he added, went on ocean cruises.

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