Room for resort and mine in Rico, CO? |

Room for resort and mine in Rico, CO?

Allen Best
Vail, CO Colorado

RICO, Colorado ” There is talk of imminent change in Rico, an old mining town in the San Juan Mountains whose remoteness is rivaled only by the beauty of its surroundings.

Both mining and resort development figure into this new vision of the town located about a half-hour south of Telluride.

Mega Moly Inc., an investment firm, is at the heart of the new plans presented to the community in two meetings recently by a consortium of interrelated companies.

“I have no doubt that ultimately this resource will be accessed in the future,” said Mark Levin, a representative of Mining and Environmental Services, a firm that conducts remediation of existing mining sites. He said to expect a 10- to 20-year development process.

But Mega Moly still has to cut a deal with the owner of the mining property. Also, there seem to be some doubts about the size and quality of the ore deposit.

For example, while Levin describes the deposit as “truly world-class potential in terms of size and grade,” he also said additional drilling that will cost tens of millions of dollars is needed to document the economic value of the deposit.

Mining was also the talk of the town last year, after mining interests announced plans to begin mining of what may be a major molybdenum deposit. The deal fell through.

But with China now a net importer of molybdenum, the market remains strong for the mineral, which strengthens steel and improves resistance to corrosion.

More immediate than mining, says The Telluride Watch, is potential of a development that includes warm water bathing and a spa. The Kiernan Companies is at the center of this project.

The hot water near the center of Rico was discovered in the 1970s when a mining company created artesian wells, meaning the water naturally flows to the surface without being pumped. The water is still flowing at about 100 degrees.

Kyoto Planet Group, a geothermal resources firm, is involved in this aspect of the vision, with some talk also of potential for extracting the heat for electrical generation.

Rico residents for years have wondered about potential for development. A town of 250 during winter, it’s population doubles during summer, when owners of the old cabins flood in form Arizona and elsewhere.

But there is no central sewer, and the town has enough water rights for only a few dozen additional water taps, says Rebecca Levy, a town trustee and also publisher of the Rico Bugle.

The town is split on whether it wants changes, says Levy. While many are content with Rico as it is, the town is almost exclusively a bedroom community for Telluride and Mountain Village, with no local economy and tax base.

Dissatisfied with local schools, families are leaving when they begin to have children. Telluride is now longer accepting out-of-district students.

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