Friday, May 23, 2008

Mountain Town News


By ALLEN BEST - MTN TOWN NEWS SERVICE

Mining company will stay the course at C.B.

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo.—Amid the lingering snow piled to the eaves of some houses in Crested Butte, the red flags continue to flap in the breezes, continued prayerful vigilance regarding what most people consider to be a major threat to the community's existing lifestyle and tourism-based economy.

The prayer flags were strung this winter as part of the opposition to potential molybdenum mining on Mount Emmons, called the Red Lady in Crested Butte, which is located at the foot of the mountain.

The mountain contains a substantial body of molybdenum ore—described as "world class"—by the owners, U.S. Energy Corp. The company, which is based in Riverton, Wyo., obtained claims to the ore body under the General Mining Act of 1872, and several years ago further obtained title to the Forest Service land above it at a cost of $5 per acre.

U.S. Energy last year enlisted Vancouver-based Kobex Resources Ltd. into an option agreement. The company invested $10 million into the proposed mine, now called Lucky Jack, before abruptly pulling out in April. An analyst had predicted the pullout, explaining that Kobex had not realized the amount of community opposition.

That opposition, through well-connected local residents, has grown to include one of the world's largest legal firms, DLA Piper, which is said to be a heavy-hitter in Washington D.C.

But a press release issued by U.S. Energy says it "stands undeterred in its resolve to advance, permit and develop Lucky Jack into a premier primary molybdenum mine that the United States can be proud of." The company has allocated $5 million to refine estimates of costs for mining and milling. That information will be used in filing plans to the U.S. Forest Service late this year or early next.

Tahoe pollution seems to have been staunched

LAKE TAHOE, Calif.—Instead of becoming more sullied, Lake Tahoe may be regaining the clarity that Mark Twain 136 years ago described as "a noble sheet of blue ... not merely transparent, but dazzlingly, brilliantly so."

Scientists say the lake's clarity has actually improved since 2001—possibly because land-use restrictions and erosion controls legislated several decades ago have been having an impact, reports the Sacramento Bee.

The findings mark the most encouraging development in 40 years of monitoring the clouding of Lake Tahoe, according to Charles Goldman, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who in the 1960s was the first to foresee Tahoe's troubles, and then take action its behalf.

"There's promise in these data that we've crossed the line," Goldman told the Bee.

Tahoe still dazzles as when Mark Twain visited it, notes the Bee, but erosion, construction runoff and air pollution have caused clarity to decline by nearly one-third since 1968, or an average loss of a foot a year.

The $500 million in federal, state and lake funds designated for cleanup in recent years has paid for roadside basins to capture runoff from lakeside highways, a major source of lake pollution.

Scientists were unwilling to say absolutely that the pollution had been reversed. But the seven-year trend is enough to raise hopes of a bluer Tahoe.

Big redevelopments stalled by slow sales

VAIL, Colo.—Vail proper is mostly built out, but redevelopment is in full force. Some $1 billion has been logged in the last five years, mostly at the base of the ski area on Vail Mountain, with $2 billion more in the development pipeline.

But the slowed economy is also slowing, although not yet stopping, those new projects, reports the Vail Daily.

One project, the Roost Lodge, a low-cost relic of the late 1960s, is slated to become a condo-hotel operated by Marriott. Lack of sales, however, has delayed construction, scheduled to start this spring, for at least a year.

Another project, Cascade Residences, has only a 50-50 percent chance of starting construction this year, as the last sale necessary for the work go-ahead is now being wrapped up.

Vail Resorts, the ski area operator, has also pushed back the projected construction start for its $1 billion Ever Vail to the winter of 2009-2010. Rob Katz, the chief executive officer told the newspaper that buyers of luxury real estate offered by his company are "somewhat" insulated from the country's economic downturn, and he expects a rebound within a year or two.

"Buyers are taking their time and being picky," he said. "But plenty of people are still buying real estate."

Sales statistics compiled for the Eagle Valley and Vail say the same thing. Sales through March were down 42 percent compared to last year, but average sales prices were up 40 percent.




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