Climax Mine to re-open this year, plans in place to protect water quality in reservoirs used for augmentation and supply


From the Vail Daily (Laura Glendenning):

The Eagle Park Reservoir wasn’t always so beautiful, though — it was once a pond that collected highly acidic tailings from the nearby molybdenum mining and milling operation known as the Climax Mine. Molybdenum is a metal used as an addition to steels, irons and nonferrous alloys…

A Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology report, “Mined Land Reclamation in Colorado,” cites a 1993 agreement between Vail Associates and the Climax Molybdenum Co. to complete a tailing-removal project and reclamation of the Oxide Pond to a fresh-water reservoir. Water attorney Glenn Porzak said Vail Associates later paid a total of $6 million for the cleanup, with another $6 million paid by the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and the Colorado River Water Conservation District. Those groups make up the Eagle Park Reservoir Co., formed in 1998. The reservoir is now the major in-basin water supply for augmentation water — basically water that is used to replenish stream water — for all of those water entities, Porzak said — “it’s the motherlode.”[…]

Fast forward to 2012, and the Climax Mine, now owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, is reopening its molybdenum-mining operation, except this time around, the Eagle Park Reservoir is off limits as a tailings dumping site. The Eagle Park Reservoir Co., which includes board members from Vail Resorts and the local water authorities, came to an agreement with Climax outlining a water-quality-monitoring plan that was recently reviewed and approved by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety…

[Eric Kinneberg, spokesman for Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold] said the Climax Mine plans to start production this year, but he couldn’t release an exact date just yet. He said there will be more information on the scheduled start released with the Freeport-McMoRan fourth-quarter financial results announcement Thursday. Production from the Climax molybdenum mine is expected to ramp up to a rate of 20 million pounds per year during 2013, Kinneberg said, and depending on market conditions, may be increased to 30 million pounds per year. The company is currently in the process of hiring about 70 more employees, for a total of 350 employees, to work at the mine, he said.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

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