It would not be surprising if the majority voted “yes,” selling the soul of Rico in a dangerous development package deal. Stine's team made a tempting offer. The Kiernan Companies talked of real estate developments such as affordable housing and a hot springs lodge. The Kyoto Planet group proposed hot spring and geothermal exploration. Mark Levin, of Mining and Environmental Services LLC, an environmental remediation firm, presented an informative yet skewed slide presentation to the public.
Levin warned that, in the future, when other deposits are exhausted, the molybdenum deposit under Rico can not be ignored. A slide was shown with a digitally superimposed photo of what a small vertical shaft would look like at the old Argentine Mine site a mile above Rico. Levin then pointed a red laser onto the wall about 10 feet off the screen, representing the site of the major mine facilities and the processing mill. The ore would be transported diagonally, surfacing at least six miles away from ore deposit. The major facilities would be located between six to ten miles way; out of sight, out of mind.
Rico's true wealth lies not in its potential mineral resources, but in its beauty, remoteness, and seclusion. This rich town is surrounded by protected National Forest Service land. Most of the scarce private land is a thin sliver along the Dolores river corridor. Rico citizens may be comforted by the promise that major processing facilities would not lie a mile from town up Silver Creek, yet they should not complacently allow the mill to be located within the proposed radius of the town. This location should be of great concern to those living in the four neighboring counties surrounding Rico, yet Mega Moly Inc. would not talk of its location, saying it was too early tell. Looking at a map of the area, one can only guess about the location. They would need private land close to a highway and a water source. This location is limited to the stretch of Highway 145, either near the Dunton turnoff (Dolores or San Miguel counties), or South West of Rico (Dolores or Montezuma County). Another alternative may be near Highway 550 in La Plata County and/or San Juan Counties. The entire mine operation would be located in Dolores County and possibly San Miguel, San Juan, La Plata or Montezuma counties, all amazingly located within 10 miles of the deposit.
Although Mr. Levin showed a slide of what the potential mine shaft a mile from Rico would look like, he failed to illustrate what the main facility would look like six to ten miles from the shaft. Levin skirted the issue because this would be the source of noise, light, air pollution, traffic, and watershed and environmental impact. It was stressed that the mine wouldn't be completed for 15 to 20 years, and that mining technologies will have evolved by then. Levin stated that "mining could not be by surface mining methods or any other method that could cause land subsidence." Notice this defensive use of wording, "could not be". Levin went on to explain "probably this will entail 'paste backfill,'" a fairly new and costly method where cemented tailings are pumped back into void spaces. This method leaves less tailing aboveground, "minimizing the surface impact of a visual tailings containment facility." Mega Moly Inc. claims yet does not guarantee that it will minimize environmental impact. The main facility, although six to ten miles away, could look like the Henderson Mine, near Empire, Colo., which is a notch above the open pit Climax Mine near Leadville, yet still an aesthetic disaster. If the major facility were located downstream near the Dolores River, Montezuma County would bear most of the impacts. Do they have a say in the issue? If the major facility were located on the other side of the Continental Divide, does it make Ricoans feel better allowing the mine's environmental impact in their neighboring La Plata or San Juan County's backyard?
Mega Moly Inc. has devised a development package for Rico that may seem beneficial for the community. It tempts residents with utopian visions of affordable housing, jobs, more business, better schools, a lodge, a spa, a geothermal power plant, even a geothermal green house. This is speculation, a way for a Canadian mining developer to candy-coat a proposal to extract and process a highly profitable ore in the area. All they need is the town's misguided blessing. This is not Rico's only option. We should not gamble with our future by granting a "social license" to Mega Moly, Inc. If we do have one of the state's top two geothermal sources beneath us, isn't a $10 million property pricetag a feasible amount for a visionary buyer who promises to sustainably develop this property, and not the minerals beneath it? People of Rico, do not support this proposed development and let us see if the CEO of Mega Moly, Inc. keeps his word: "If we do not receive your support, we will be forced to terminate our negotiations."
Lapp is a Rico resident with a degree in Wildlife Biology from the Colorado State University's College of Natural Resources.