Citizen Involvement and Project Outcome

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In a beautiful mountain valley in western Colorado, nestled at the base of the looming Mt. Emmons, lies the community of Crested Butte. The town was a thriving coal mining community in years past, but had lapsed into a period of virtual inactivity, as the mines closed one by one. Unknown to the coal miners, under the massif of Mt. Emmons was a different mineral that has the potential of renewing mining activity in the valley - molybdenum, a gray material used in the hardening of steel. It is a hidden treasure that holds the potential for change.

Crested Butte

A large company, involved in the mining and milling of "Moly," discovered the body of ore under the mountain, and set forth the processes to claim, mine, mill and transport the mineral. The company had done it before in Colorado - not once, but twice - and already had two large operating mines in the state.

The amassed data was carefully analyzed and the decision to proceed was made.

Company officials came to Crested Butte with their proposal, eager to inform the residents of their "good" news of opportunities for economic renewal, community growth and prosperity. Instead of being welcomed, however, the officials were surprised to find skepticism, doubt and resistance. The company had assumed that since the town had its roots in mining, the townspeople would understand, accept, and support the mine. The assumption was false. Unknown to the company, the community had changed.

Crested Butte, in its period of "quiet," had attracted a new generation of citizen. The "new" citizens were highly educated, tired of the "rat race" in large metropolitan areas, and were drawn to Crested Butte by the beautiful scenery, clean air, relaxed life style, and quiet, slow pace. The company had made a tragic and costly miscalculation.

In the years that ensued, citizens' resistance became organized, and it intensified to the point where some of the residents had direct access to the White House and the national media to plead their case. The result? Millions of dollars spent, the project postponed, opportunities lost, and future options foreclosed.

Shortly after the company's announcement to postpone the development, the citizens of Crested Butte ascended the slopes of Mt. Emmons and held a victory party on its summit, signaling to the world a new era of citizen involvement in determining project outcomes.

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