Rico: Some town residents lament the prospect of renewed mining, some do not

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From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

By far, the most pressing concern among the citizens of the town is that of water. At the hearing, part-time resident Steve Williams expressed a fear felt by all who live in Rico. “My big concern is the protection of the watershed,” he said. Rico currently procures its drinking water from Silver Creek, which runs through the proposed mine site. The Rico Municipal Water Supply Diversion Gallery is located approximately 1,000 feet upstream from the site. In 2008 the town created a watershed protection area to ease fears about contamination of the water supply. The mine site, however, is just beyond the reach of the protection area.

Mark Levin, president of Outlook Resources, the company interested in exploring the molybdenum deposit, understands the concerns of those who live in Rico but maintains they are unwarranted. “I’m an environmentalist,” said Levin, who holds a degree in ecological engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. “There would be no new environmental disturbance. All you would have is environmental betterment.” The idea of environmental betterment has been a theme in Rico over the past decade, but the execution has not always been as flawless as the concept…

Silver Creek is currently listed on the Colorado Department of Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Division’s 303(D) List as an “impaired water.” An impaired water listing signifies a body of water does not attain water quality standards due to the presence of one or more pollutants, according to WQCD’s listing methodology for the 2010 listing cycle. Silver Creek’s listing is a result of zinc and cadmium levels in the water. However, that contamination is due to past mining activity, using practices that have changed drastically.

“The perception of it being just like it was 50 years ago, I think, is false,” said Mark Walker, project director with the Colorado Brownfields Foundation. “Regulations have become a lot more stringent” Walker worked for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and was involved in the ARCO VCUP project.

More coverage from the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

The county currently is experiencing an unemployment rate of 13.2 percent, the highest in the state, and the economic promise of an undeveloped resource is enticing. Mark Levin, of Outlook Resources, firmly believes that molybdenum could be the answer to the economic woes of the area. “Three generations could make a living off of this project,” Levin said. “There is the possibility of the creation of 200-300 new jobs and a $15 to $20 million annual payroll.” Those are large numbers for a community whose economy is tied to historically shifting markets such as agriculture, construction and tourism.

The possibilities offered by molybdenum mining are immense. A closer examination of the economy surrounding the Henderson molybdenum mine in Clear Creek County, Colo., offers a look at the influx of capital a mine could provide. According to Diane Settle, Clear Creek county assessor, the net property tax revenue in 2009 was $16,565,902 – of which Henderson contributed $9,783,975. In other words, the Henderson molybdenum mining operations alone accounts for 59 per cent of the tax base in Clear Creek County. Assuming a molybdenum operation based in Dolores County would be similar in scope and size, the project could quadruple the county’s revenue, which stood at $3,337,575 for the 2008 tax year. “The impact (of a mine) would be immense,” said Mike Thompson, an economic geologist and co-owner of Grayling Environmental, based in Cortez. “It would by far be the largest contributor to Dolores County.”

More coverage from the Cortez Journal (Kristen Plank). From the article:

In the end, the weight of that monumental decision [to permit the new molybdenum mine] will ultimately rest with the county government, for which decisions are made by three commissioners who live near Dove Creek, the county seat. “This molybdenum deposit lies within Dolores County, so any legal issues would be with Dolores County,” said Mike England, town manager in Rico. “Our jurisdiction is at the town limits.”[…]

because Dolores County has a very lenient land use code – and absolutely no zoning – projects in the county are decided one at a time. “On some of the projects, it makes it a little harder, but it depends on the project,” Dolores County Commissioner Ernie Williams said about the county’s lack of zoning. Because of the situation, Outlook chose to submit an application to secure a “land development agreement.” Outlook’s owner, Mark Levin, hopes to be granted a “use by right” for the underground molybdenum. Though the first application was denied by commissioners because too much of it was left open-ended, Levin plans to reapply. In the meantime, Rico is working on designating a three-mile planning area to minimize impacts to the town, said town planner Jennifer Stark.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here.

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