Thursday, April 03, 2008

Your Place or Mine?

(Photo-The Rosemont Area 30 miles SE of Tucson) Tucson, Arizona. A rather persnickety storm is brewing here in Southern Arizona with rather powerful forces gathering on both sides. On one side we have lots of money and Rosemont Copper Company's desire to make it by scraping over half a billion tons of Arizona desert off the side of a mountain. Why? Most of the dirt averages 0.47% copper (sulfide), 0.015% molybdenum, and has 0.12 ounces of silver per ton. Another much smaller piece is 0.18% copper oxide. After all the scraping, crushing, burning, melting, skimming, electrocuting, and so on, we get:

234 million pounds of copper (220 sulfide and 14 oxide)
4.5 million pounds of molybdenum
2.7 million ounces of silver
15,000 ounces of gold

Prices of precious metals are so volatile I won't even try to translate into dollars over the next 20 years, but the reader can safely conclude that under all scenarios the above pile is one serious chunk of change, and the mining company is proceeding like it hasn't got a care in the world, going through the process to get federal approval. Heidi Schewel, a spokeswoman for the Coronado National Forest, said their only course of action is to follow the law, which favors mining. We are STILL operating under the General Mining Act of 1872, which in a nutshell says, "Rape the earth raw."

Let's be clear - existing law favors the mine. The federal government, as is, will let them proceed if they follow the approval procedure. Local citizens are getting downright emotional about the federal folks letting a foreign company march into town, rape the desert, make a fortune, and leave. As the voices heated up Forest Service officials literally fled the scene 30 minutes into a two-hour meeting.

I have already written about the impending water fiasco we are going to hit simply due to unbridled development of entire cities without properly addressing the TRUE implications for water supply infrastructure. Think a thousand homes are thirsty? Seen an open pit? Seen an SX-EW plant? Seen a concentrator? These things guzzle water at rates requiring exponential notation unless you talk in acre-feet. How are they going to get the water?

Clearly, they have an answer, but the physics give one cause for extreme skepticism. We get screwed with outrageous water rates so they can guzzle precious metals? Local elected officials aren't so keen with with the idea either. Taxes, jobs, etc., duly noted, the deal has serious issues. I can't locate the material, but I know for a fact that the company has played dirty tricks to work this through, walking neighborhoods and enticing the economically struggling with "free food" and "high paying jobs" if they attend a meeting and support the mine. When the exploited learned they had been manipulated, they were furious.

UPDATE: Found it.

Can Southern Arizona defend itself? When Congressman Raul Grijalva and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords started barking and showing teeth last year, the company (knowing the Forest Service and the law was on its side) initially laughed Reservoir Dog style, "Are you gonna bark all day, little doggies, or are you going to bite?"

With Governor Nepolitano's support, Grijalva sponsored (with Giffords as co-sponsor) House Bill 4228, the Southern Arizona Public Lands Protection Act of 2007. The bill would withdraw certain lands in Pima and Santa Cruz counties from mining and mineral leases. Pressure from Grijalva, Giffords, and Napolitano has caused the Forest Service to agree to public meetings on the mine. The next one occurs in Vail this Saturday, April 5, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Cienega High School. The Star has more details in an article today on the meeting Saturday and future meetings.

Yes, we love the desert, but just as critical as preserving habitat, beat the water drum.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are clueless. That money talks louder than your idiots in Congress.

The bill stands no chance. The mine will be created, and it will produce great jobs and lot of taxable income for the state.

4/03/2008 4:52 PM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

Time will tell, Anon. We do not live in the same reality as years ago.

I think x4mr has a good point about water. Perhaps a win/win can be arranged where the mine agrees to pay for a massive water project that benefits the entire region.

4/03/2008 9:41 PM  
Blogger Dustin said...

I had not even considered the water aspect, but then I know jack shit about mining. Sure, there will be jobs and income, but for how long?

say they open up shop, remain open for however long, and then when it becomes economically unsound to continue, all those people are laid off. sorry, too bad. I guess my point is that all of this "prosperity" is transient, and that's worth considering as well. What is the price of all this in the long run?

4/04/2008 7:40 AM  
Blogger Cigar Man said...

I consider the Rosemont Mine an interesting conflict that will test in new ways local political will versus the status quo that so often renders the interests of the current irrelevant. I respect the risk Nepolitano, Grijalva, and Giffords take in challenging a formidable foe with momentum on their side.

I like Nav’s concept of securing substantial and perhaps unprecedented "taxation" or "subsidization" of water infrastructure as part of the approval of the project, a "win/win" versus an exploitation situation where the mine reaps great reward at the great cost to the community whose resources it extracts.

I had not thought about a mill (concentrator), but of course they are going to build one. X4mr knows better than me, but the flotation process to produce copper concentrate has to use astronomical amounts of water.

Of course the mine has a water plan and it is not Nav's concept. The devil is in the details. I'm surprised x4mr didn't mention energy. You don't crush copper sulfide ore with gerbils running in cages.

I see the company and the money in the ground as Goliath. Local elected officials and the citizens are David. Interesting.

4/04/2008 11:45 AM  

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