LISBON VALLEY, Utah - All Kay Howe and Claudia Akers wanted was to buy some land where it was cheaper than in Moab - on Three Step Mesa in Lisbon Valley, some of San Juan County's rare private land. As the realtor showed them the few acres of sagebrush and unimpressive red canyon, he felt compelled to mention the possibility of an open-pit copper mine just a few miles west.
Before buying, the two women went to
Summo's public information meeting in 1995, two of the four
citizens attending. "I didn't know anything about acid mine
drainage. I didn't know heap leach, sulfuric mine, and nobody knew
what to ask," says Akers. "I didn't realize how bad it was. The
Summo guys make it seem like a trip to Disneyland."
They bought the land and then reluctantly looked
at Summo's draft environmental impact statement. Not understanding
the technical jargon, they contacted every environmentalist whose
comments were published in the EIS and asked for
This was not how they wanted to spend their
time. Neither considered herself an activist. Howe is a single
mother of four. Akers was Moab's first female jeep tour driver.
Both patch together incomes from odd jobs in the tourism and movie
industries that feed Moab.
"If you go down the
street and ask people, "Do you know anything about Summo?" everyone
says, "What?" The BLM did nothing," says Howe. "It is up to us to
educate people. Like we have the time. Sure, pay me, and I can buy
Nevertheless, today they speak
environmental jargon like lifelong Sierra Club members. Calling
themselves the Protect Our Resources Coalition, they have joined
the Mineral Policy Center and the National Wildlife Federation in
appealing the BLM's decision to allow the mine. But they feel
abandoned by Moab's environmental
"People here just roll over and take
it," says Howe. "We don't need copper to live. We need water to
live. This is a desert. Get real, guys."
true feeling is that this company is going to come in, leave us
with the mess and get out. There are lots of people who could have
stopped it, but were too damned selfish doing their own thing,"
says Akers. "Us 50-year-olds are tired."
Akers and Howe are not deterred by the reality of finding
themselves fighting a mine.
"We agonized over
moving here. Kay said it was the right thing to do. I still don't
feel like it was a mistake," says Akers. "Nobody else would have
done it and without us, (the mine) would be operating already.
Maybe we were meant to come here."