May 17, 2012

Red Lady Update – US Energy Seeking Landswap

Red Lady Bowl on Mt. Emmons.  Photo: Thompson Creek Metals

For 35 years, several companies have unsuccessfully tried to mine one of the world’s richest deposits of molybdenum.  It is located on Mt. Emmons, locally known as The Red Lady, just above and upstream from the town of Crested Butte.  The latest mining company at the site, US Energy, is considering walking away from the project in favor of a land exchange. 

by Chad Reich –       Photo: Thompson Creek Metals

On Monday, May 14th, US Energy announced that it would consider a land exchange for its 25 patented and unpatented mining claims in the Gunnison National Forest.  US Energy’s pursuit for hard rock mining of molybdenum will continue alongside a search for a land exchange elsewhere or for what the company calls ‘other consideration.’

After 11 months of meetings between US Energy, federal and state government officials, the town of Crested Butte, and environmental advocacy groups High Country Citizen’s Alliance and The Red Lady Coalition, the constituents agreed to explore the possibility of a land exchange.

The land exchange is a complex process involving many variables, and it would be subject to legislative action as well as federal appraisal.  Senators Michael Bennett and Mark Udall, both Democrats, are committed to moving forward towards resolution among all parties.  Whether that resolution ultimately lands US Energy out of the Gunnison Valley remains to be seen.  US Energy has stated that they are still interested in developing the molybdenum deposit on Mt. Emmons.

The Board of Directors at US Energy has identified 4 conditions for a land exchange:

  1. US Energy pursues an exchange along with efforts for mine development on Mt. Emmons.
  2. The land exchange must be substantially completed by the end of 2012.
  3. A third party takes over the water treatment plant at the discharge to Coal Creek.  (The plant’s costs have grown from $1 million annually to $1.8 million).
  4. US Energy receives significant value for its shareholders.

US Energy’s claims in the Gunnison National Forest would be based on a valuation deemed during federal appraisal.  US Energy’s private, non-binding appraisal values its claims somewhere between $50 million and $100 million.  With the proposed land exchange for mineral wealth elsewhere, the company would be able to produce, a feat yet to be achieved on Mt. Emmons.

To read press releases from US Energy, the town of Crested Butte, and from High Country Citizen’s Alliance or the Red Lady Coalition, visit

About the Author

2. Will Dujardin
Will Dujardin is our content editor at West Elk Project. He competes in big mountain competitions and coaches the Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team. Skiing is his life and he likes to mix it with other fun things like DH mountain biking and traveling.