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Where was the environment in the Climax Mine epic?

Letter from Maggie Houston-Smith

Mining – January 1995 – Colorado Central Magazine

Steve Voynick’s account of the Climax Molybdenum Mine [published in the November and December editions] sifted very lightly over the environmental destruction of molybdenum mining. He mentioned environmental concerns as Queen Victoria did sex — hoping no one would mention its existence. I was at the site some years ago and saw no evidence of environmental concerns.

Set aside a day this summer to go on an unguided tour — from the road the spectacle is shock enough. I dare you to get out and walk around through the unreclaimable canyons of moly sludge, ten square miles or more of dead spruce and fir trees marking their own graves.

Then look at Crested Butte and its citizens’ successful struggle to keep the Amax moly mine on Mt. Emmons from happening; the Amax collapse happened during this Crested Butte fight.

One Amax plan there called for the destruction of Horse Ranch Park above Crested Butte, which would have been filled with sludge hundreds of feet deep; selenium is one of the toxic elements which would have washed into the ecosystem.

I recently got word that Amax is going to go after Mt. Emmons again. Meanwhile Crested Butte is becoming a grand theme park for skiers and tourists. For all I know, the end of sanity there will be a casino.

This short-term good-for-the-economy thinking occurred when Amax tried there before. With a casino sucking away, the big sucking sound of another disappearing mountain won’t even be noticed.

But thanks for the Letter from the Editor. Open space and a thriving local economy? A non-sequitur perhaps, but keep up your “naive idealism.”

Maggie Houston-Smith