Climax site visit set for Thursday
SUMMIT COUNTY – The Ten Mile Planning Commission will make a site visit Thursday to the Climax Mine near Fremont Pass for a review of a new $19 million sludge densification plant.The new facility will treat the mine’s wastewater to meet new state water quality standards, but officials with mine owner Phelps Dodge have said the facility is not related to recently announced plans to re-open Climax, according to Summit County planning director Jim Curnutte.Phelps Dodge executives first approached the county regarding the sludge treatment plant about one year ago, well before plans to re-open the molybdenum mine were announced. Molybdenum prices have spiked in recent years, with demand for the steel-hardening agent growing in countries like China. Molybdenum is used to make stronger mountain bike frames, in military hardware and in paint, among other things.”They’re building a new and improved sludge densification plant. Instead of just letting the water flow into the settling ponds, it will be treated before,” Curnutte said. The new treatment is needed to meet state standards for aluminum. Climax is not legally obligated to make the change right now, but would need to have the additional treatment before updating its state mine permit, Curnutte said.”They’ve said it’s not related to re-opening the mine … that they needed to do it anyway, with pending state water quality standards,” Curnutte said.The 9,300-acre Climax property makes Phelps Dodge Summit County’s single biggest private landowner, Curnutte said. The planning commission will meet at 3:45 p.m. Thursday in front of the County Commons near the library for the site visit. The public is invited to attend and transportation is via carpool.Permitting issues?Any potential re-opening of the mine could be a couple of years away, and county officials aren’t sure yet what type of review, if any, would be required. The property is zoned M-1 (for mining) and mining is not an activity subject to review under state-set 1041 county powers.Curnutte said the county has had a good relationship with Phelps Dodge over the years and he would expect the company to step forward with an operational outline and timetable at some point. That would be when the county would look at what sort of review might be needed, he said.The company’s state mining permit has also remained active, so it’s likely that mining could start up without a huge planning and permitting process. One key piece could be how and where the company would plan to process the ore, according to Summit County locals who worked at the mine in years past. Construction of a milling facility at the Climax site would be under the county’s purview, Curnutte said.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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