Cyprus Amax denied water rights to mine molybdenum
GunnisonGunnison — Cyprus Amax Minerals has been denied conditional water rights to mine ore from a central Colorado mountain, a district court ruled. — Cyprus Amax Minerals has been denied conditional water rights to mine ore from a central Colorado mountain, a district court ruled.
Gunnison — Cyprus Amax Minerals has been denied conditional water rights to mine ore from a central Colorado mountain, a district court ruled.
Gunnison County District Judge Steven Patrick said Wednesday, after deliberating for nearly one month, that the request had been denied because of lack of available water in the Gunnison Valley.
Englewood-based Cyprus Amax, one of the world’s largest mining companies, said it might appeal the decision.
Cyprus Amax was trying to secure enough water to mine 29 million tons of molybdenum-containing ore from Mount Emmons, northwest of Crested Butte.
The company’s plan was challenged in Gunnison District Court by three dozen entities including the town of Crested Butte, Gunnison County, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.
Gary Sprung, a board member of High Country Citizens Alliance, said he worries the ruling leaves open the possibility that the mining company could buy or lease water from other sources.
”While it’s very pleasant to have another victory over them, as long as that molybdenum remains in this community, we have a problem,” Sprung said.
Opponents argued during a two-week hearing in July that there is not enough water available under Cyprus Amax’s junior water rights to satisfy the mine’s needs. They said it could dry up some creeks and adversely affect Gunnison’s water supply.
The topic of molybdenum mining has been an emotionally charged issue in Gunnison County since the 1970s, when Amax discovered one of the world’s purest and largest deposits of molybdenum ore there.
Plans to mine the ore were dropped in the 1980s when molybdenum prices plummeted. In 1993, when Cyprus Climax Metals Co. acquired Amax, the plans were resurrected. Cyprus Amax filed for water rights and began pursuing patents on Mount Emmons two years ago.
Last month, Cyprus Amax and New York-based Asarco Inc. agreed in July to merge in a stock swap worth $764.2 million. The merger is expected in to be completed by the end of the year and Cyprus-Amax plans to close its Colorado headquarters.
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