Western Slope Colorado Mining and Drilling Take Job-Hurting Hits

This is a methane drainage well for an underground coal mine like Elk Creek mentioned in this story.
This is a methane drainage well for an underground coal mine like Elk Creek mentioned in this story.
OIl and Gas drilling
Oil and Gas drilling, not methane drainage wells (from Huff Post)

We have been discussing different forested communities and their desire to have jobs… based on natural resources, when they have them (like trees). In the Montana-Idaho-Washington-Oregon thinking, it tends to be about trees. So I think it’s interesting to compare Colorado, because Colorado has less timber and more of other natural resources (which impacts you could argue are more or less than timber harvesting.. I’ve read many EIS’s on all of the above).

It’s clear people in these communities are hurting. Is there something that should be done? Who should decide? Should the US give up on producing natural resources and outsource them, hoping to have the funds to buy them from others and to focus on tourism? Are tourism jobs paid well enough to support families? If so, why do they need to get folks from other countries to do them (documented and undocumented)?

Maybe we retirees could move to these places and thereby boost the economies with our retirement income? But who wants to move somewhere with few health services, where the stores downtown are boarded up?

I can safely say I don’t know the answers to all these questions. But I think people of goodwill should be working together on these questions. Colorado’s leaders don’t seem to see this as a partisan issue.. and I don’t think we should either. I have this crazy idea that we all can, and should, care about people AND the environment.

Notice also that this is in the local news section of the Post. If something happens to our regional press, I really wonder where people will get their understanding of the interior West. For example, I was looking for a photo of the Elk Creek mine to illustrate this post. I found an article on Elk Creek mine in the Huffington Post that actually had a photo of an oil and gas operation not a methane drainage well. Here’s the link to that. Yes, it’s a photo of a completely different operation.

a link to the Denver Post story.

Below is an excerpt (italics mine):

Despite all the bad news, there are reasons for optimism beyond 2014.

The Western Slope’s clean-coal sources are expected to still be in demand in international markets. Exploratory wells in the Piceance have shown there are decades of shale gas to be developed in that area. The reported drilling of the new vent at Revenue-Virginius indicates owners plan to reopen that facility.

And the move toward a new source of metal for solar- and wind-energy batteries is raising hopes that southwest Colorado could see a spike in mining for vanadium.

That could revive some of the uranium and vanadium mines in the area. Many have been waiting for a new mill to be built near Naturita. The proposed Piñon Ridge mill has been permitted, but low uranium prices have kept Energy Fuels Resources Corp. from moving ahead with construction.

Petersen said Club 20 leaders are also having discussions about finding new industries or revving old ones to replace some of the jobs lost in the energy sector. She said they are looking at tourism and the timber and aerospace industries for new opportunities.

1 thought on “Western Slope Colorado Mining and Drilling Take Job-Hurting Hits”

  1. Twentymile has been quite the run. From the surface, you’d not think 500 people work there, but two trainloads a day without fail for at least 25 years (it was running when I first moved to SBS) is an impressive amount of coal. And it turns out that the guys who set up the longwall there are now up at Bull Mountain in Montana, and that one will run a long time.
    There’s also plenty of wood on the western slope for at least one or two mills. With Olathe gone and I assume scrapped, however, nobody’s going to risk the capital unless there are commitments from the GMUG and WRNF to cut some trees over the long term. With a mechanized side alone coming in at a million bucks for good used iron — that’s ONE side — there’s way more risk than there was when all you needed was a couple chain saws and a D-4/Clark.


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