Mt. Emmons mine plan okayed for NEPA review
Written by Aimee Brown   
Wednesday, 24 April 2013
US energy may try to fast track process
The United States Forest Service (USFS) this week approved forward movement on a plan for the mining of molybdenum on Mt. Emmons outside Crested Butte. Submitted to USFS by developer US Energy, the Mine Plan of Operations (MPO) provides a detailed description of the proposed construction, mining, processing and reclamation operations that would occur if a mine were to be developed on the mountain. 


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In a letter to US Energy, the USFS said it had determined the controversial plan “contain[ed] sufficient information and clarity to form the basis for a proposed action to initiate scoping and analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.”
Analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to examine the potential environmental impacts of land and resource development. If significant impacts seem likely, NEPA then requires the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)—a document that discusses the potential impacts of development and offers reasonable alternatives to mitigate them, and is subject to public comment and review.
After talking with US Energy owners on Tuesday, USFS forest supervisor for the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests Scott Armentrout said the company was eager to initiate planning and begin the NEPA process.
“Theoretically, scoping could be initiated sometime this year,” added USFS district ranger John Murphy. “It will be an EIS, I can guarantee you that.”
Though US Energy’s MPO has not yet been made public, a statement released by the company cites a proposal for an underground molybdenum mine with a 33-year operational life that would produce up to 12,600 tons of ore per day using a vertical blast hole cut and fill method of mining. In addition to the mine, the MPO also calls for a cement mixing plant to be constructed at the mine site to prepare backfill materials; three fresh water reservoirs; and a state-of-the-art lined tailings storage facility.
Companies have been attempting to mine molybdenum deposits on Mt. Emmons since the 1970s, but have faced many economic, political, environmental and social setbacks, and rights to mining claims on the mountain have been repeatedly sold.
Currently US Energy owns 25 patented mining claims consisting of approximately 365 acres of fee land ((define: privately owned?)) and mineral rights within the Gunnison National Forest, as well as an additional 160 acres of fee land. It also holds approximately 1,353 unpatented mining and millsite claims associated with the Mt. Emmons project for approximately 15 square miles of holdings.
“The statement from US Energy announcing the Forest Service’s acceptance of the MPO seems to overstate the importance of the Forest Service decision,” said High Country Citizens’ Alliance (HCCA) executive director Greg Dyson. HCCA has been a regional leader in opposition to mining on Mt. Emmons for several decades, and was largely responsible for the USFS’s public release of an earlier draft of US Energy’s operating plan.
“Acceptance of the MPO [by the USFS] means only that a very lengthy NEPA process can now begin, which will last years and include extensive opportunity for public input,” said Dyson. “Just as we did with the draft MPO, High Country Citizens’ Alliance will file a Freedom of Information Act request immediately in order to obtain the MPO accepted by the Forest Service.”