Mine backs off in Crested Butte

CRESTED BUTTE – It was two steps forward, then two steps back for a potential molybdenum mine at Crested Butte. Kobex Resources Ltd. of Vancouver, B.C, has withdrawn its plans to develop an ore body in the community’s back yard.

A press release issued by the company said that “regulatory and legal uncertainties” posed by the several layers of government had become “too great to justify the necessary time and major predevelopment expenditure that are required to advance this property.”

Property owner U.S. Energy Corp., which had partnered with Kobex, said much the same thing. “Mining is not an easy thing, and exploration of mineral projects is not for the weak of heart,” said Keith Larsen, chief executive officer of the company. He also told theCrested Butte News that Kobex may have “underestimated what they saw as the issues.”

A stock analyst, John Kaiser, of Kaiser Bottom Fish Online, several weeks ago predicted that Kobex would cut its losses at Lucky Jack, as the mine has been named.

The issue is money. Kobex had already spent $8 million on rehabilitating an existing mine at the site, located on nearby Mount Emmons, which overlooks the town. That left $15 million of the company’s investment capital, and it would have required another $14 million to bore a mile-long drift into the mountain, to better gauge the value of the ore.

Crested Butte town officials have been fine-tuning their regulations governing impacts to its watershed, which would include the mine. The primary jurisdiction, Gunnison County, was similarly working on revised regulations.

Two grassroots community groups, High Country Citizens Alliance and the Red Lady Coalition, were girding for a battle. Lately, they had been offered the free high-powered aid of a legal lobbying firm, DLA Piper, which has an office in Washington, D.C., led by several former high-ranking congressmen.

With Kobex gone, there seems to be a sign of relief in Crested Butte. But it’s muted.

“The old adage is that as long as there is an ore body in the ground that hasn’t been protected, they’ll be back,” Roger Flynn, an attorney with the Western Mining Action Project, said.

With that advice in mind, community activists are continuing to talk about buying the mining rights from U.S. Energy. The company has said the ore body is worth $100 million, reported Bob Salter, minerals specialist from the High Country Citizens Alliance.

Although Crested Butte is steadily getting more well-heeled, with the average sales price of homes last year hitting $850,000, raising that much money would be a challenge for the community of 3,000 people. Still, Telluride is only marginally larger and wealthier, and it came up with $60 million to buy open space at its front door, so such fund-raising is not totally out of the question.


Telluride cougar dies at record age

TELLURIDE – Ruby, the pet mountain lion of Melissa Margetts for the last 23 years, is no more. The aging cat was put to sleep in early April as she purred in the lap of Margetts, her companion and caregiver.

Although mountain lions – also called cougars or pumas – have a normal life expectancy of 7 to 11 years, this cat set a world record for longevity, which Margetts, writing inThe Telluride Watch, attributed to a “lot of lovin’ and all the ‘room service’ she’s gotten.” That room service included road kill, part of the 30 pounds of raw meat she ate per day, capped off by a cone of vanilla Häagen-Dazs ice cream.

Margetts relates that she obtained Ruby when the cat was 10 days old and weighed only 1 pound. She had been confiscated from a fur farm in Iowa.

The cat’s adult weight of 175 pounds had dropped to 100 in recent months, its once knife-sharp canines worn down to nubs and the incisors entirely absent.

“Though her eyes are still bright, they gloss over every now and then and betray her fright as she is becoming less aware of where she is. Kitty dementia and Alzheimer’s have now tipped the scale, and she is having more bad days than good,” said Margetts, in a story as she considered putting her pal to sleep.

When that appointed day arrived, Margetts had second thoughts. In an Internet posting, she reported that the lion seemed to be having a resurgence of strength. Still, the deed was done. She says her 23 years with the cat are more than those she spent with her parents (16), her son (18), or her former husband (10).


Jackson Hole takes action on bears

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Teton County commissioners have mandated steps to reduce conflicts between humans and bears. The commissioners are requiring bear-resistant garbage containers or, in lieu of such containers, bear-proof enclosures.

Also, for about seven months of the year, bird feeders must be at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet lateral from any structure. The regulations apply to only those areas of the county where there have been conflicts, notes theJackson Hole News&Guide. The legislation was described by one county commissioner, Ben Ellis, as a “mild step.”

The mountain resort communities that seem to be in the lead on this issue are Vail and Snowmass/Aspen. There, bear-resistant trash containers were deemed insufficient to thwart determined and reasonably intelligent bears. Instead, more challenging, so-called bear-proof devices are now required.


Vail and Aspen cops go with Volvo

VAIL – It’s a by-now familiar pattern. First something happens in Aspen, and then five to 10 years later, in Vail, and five to 20 years later at yet other resort-based mountain towns of the West.

The formula holds true in the case of police cars. It used to be that police in both Vail and Aspen drove Saabs. Then, a few years ago, Aspen police switched over to Volvo. Now – you guessed it – Vail has taken possession of four Volvos at significantly discounted prices.

It’s not a simple matter of Vail imitating Aspen, explains theVail Daily. Volvo also dangled financial incentives, such as money for uniforms for bus drivers and booth attendants, as well as recycling bins. In return, Volvo gets to put its logo on uniforms and parking-ticket stubs. Also, Volvo is the official car of Vail Resorts, the operator of the Vail and Beaver Creek ski areas.

However, if tradition holds, Vail cops will soon be driving hybrids. Aspen thinks that’s what it will do next year, and is now testing Toyota Highland hybrids. Vail, for its part, considered Chevy Tahoe hybrids, but found the cars too expensive and unproven as police cars, said police chief Dwight Henninger.


Canmore to celebrate mining past

CANMORE, Alberta – Canmore is gearing up for the celebration of its 125th as a community.

The town, a recreation-based community of about 10,000 just outside Banff National Park, was created in 1883 by the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was used to store supplies and maintain locomotives. Those tasks were later moved to Calgary, which is about 45 minutes away, but by then mining of anthracite coal had begun, which has the highest capacity of any coal to generate heat. The mine closed in 1979, but a reunion of all those who were somehow involved in that mining economy is planned for this summer.

Among Colorado mountain towns, there are strong parallels with Crested Butte. There, anthracite and also bituminous coal were mined beginning in the 1880s. However, the last coal mine at Crested Butte closed in 1952. Also unlike Canmore, which is located along both the major rail and highway transcontinental routes in Canada, Crested Butte is at the end of the road for six to seven months of the year and is four hours from the nearest major city.


Greenest Olympics taking shape

WHISTLER, B.C. – The Winter Olympics are fast approaching in Vancouver and Whistler, and it’s still not clear just how organizers of the 2010 event intend to live up to their vow to make it the greenest Olympics ever.

Some things are being done. There are hybrids vehicles in the Olympic fleet, providing improved fuel efficiency and wood being used to create the Athletes’ Village will come from certified sustainable forests.

But the greatest environmental concern remains emissions of greenhouse gases, andPique newsmagazine says organizers have not said how they intend to offset those emissions. That has environmental activists concerned.

“We are getting close to 2010 – it’s less than two years away – and it does take a certain amount of time to develop offset projects,” said Deborah Carlson, climate change campaigner for the David Suzuki Foundation.

– Allen Best