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Habitat Restoration and Protection

Concerns over Mt. Emmons Molybdenum Mine

Mt. Emmons from Mt. Crested Butte Chad Galloway

Few mountains are as iconic to a place as Mt. Emmons -- "The Red Lady" -- is to Crested Butte, Colorado. The mountain looms over the town with its distinctly red-colored slopes. Local businesses, streets, ski lifts, ski trails, and even local beers are named after the Red Lady. But mining interests have long coveted molybdenum deposits buried within the mountain and have waged a long running battle to develop the mineral. The mine poses a great risk to the Red Lady as well as the water supply, water quality, aquatic life, and wetlands in streams running through Crested Butte and other communities downstream.  WRA is representing the local non-profit group High Country Citizen’s Alliance (HCCA) in opposition to the mine’s water right.

Mt.Emmons Mine Proposal Click on this image
to see the extent of planned
mining operations on Mt. Emmons.

Mt. Emmons mine would lie just a few miles upstream of Crested Butte. It would divert water from the Slate River and Carbon Creek (both of which pass through town) and from an unnamed tributary to Ohio Creek, in a neighboring basin. The mining company proposes to build reservoirs to store the diverted water and would have tailings ponds (where highly acidic mine waste is deposited) in the area. The mining company already has responsibility for maintaining water quality below an existing mine, draining into Coal Creek, also just above Crested Butte.

This network of pristine streams and wetlands flow downstream to the town of Gunnison and then into Blue Mesa Reservoir, the largest water body in the state of Colorado. Together, these streams drain hundreds of square miles and impact the lives of thousands of residents in the Upper Gunnison basin as well as hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The water is relied upon not only for world-class angling and boating, but for ranching that has a long history and has been responsible for preserving the basin as nearly free of sprawl.

Our primary goal is to protect stream flows, water quality, aquatic life, and wetlands throughout the Upper Gunnison River basin. We have had great success in the recent past, including securing a federal water right for Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and work toward improving flows for federally endangered fish in the lower Gunnison River.  We believe the local water court reject the applicant’s water right application outright, in part because the mining company has failed to meet deadlines for submitting a mine plan.