Friday, January 6, 2012

Save the Scenic Santa Ritas!

The battle for the Santa Rita mountains has only just begun(even though it has been going on for awhile!).  The Rosemont mining company has had their eyes now on this area for quite some time.  Many local residents oppose any type of mining in the area. Here is the story on this very hot debate...
Gayle Hartmann, president of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas.Pic taken by Tim Vanderpool.

Rosemont Mines, with great determination, wants an area of the Santa Rita mountains for mining.  They have been buttering up people around the communities of Tucson, Green Valley and other areas using commercial ads on TV and Radio, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  It wasn't so much the message as it was the shady meaning behind it.  They would have some people believing that they were already approved to mine in the area and that it was a done deal.
Tom Purdon, Save the Scenic Santa Ritas. Pic by Mamta Popat for Arizona Daily Star
But the locals in the proposed mining area aren't buying into any of it at all.   A petition has gone out to stop Rosemont from destroying the land around the mountain area.  I'm a bit bias because I've seen what the mining industry has done to our landscape.  If you look at Green Valley from Tucson, you'll notice that one of the mountains has a large white scar on its side.  You can't miss it and it bothers me everytime I drive around town. If you head towards Globe, mining stains the hillsides for miles and miles.  There is a reason why residents are furious about mining here.  Many have retired in this area because it's beautiful.  I signed the petition for them because I don't want to see anymore human markings on the desert landscape.
 Pic by David Sanders/Arizona Daily StarMike Varney, president and CEO of Tucson Metro Chamber

Supporters for the Save the Scenic Santa Ritas have been present at our major Tucson and local area events like the 4th Avenue St Fair or the Pecan Festival in Green Valley.  It was here that I had a long conversation with a lovely retired lady who is facing the destruction of her own backyard.  It is not difficult to understand why a mining company would want to use the area because it will be profitable in the short term.  But in the long run, the damage done will be insurmountable to the short term benefits.  Human greed and arrogance will be the destruction of us all.  If mining didn't have ecological consequences, then I'd be all for them moving forward, but this isn't any different than several leaders in Washington wanting to put a pipeline up to Alaska thru Canada for more drilling.  It's all the same thing. These fragile and necessary ecosystems must remain untouched or the natural balance of things will be thrown off. 

A panel is in order currently analyzing all the data. The following interviews were done by the Arizona Daily Star by Tony Davis.
Q&A With Tom Purdon of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas:
Q. How many panels will your group convene and who will be on them?
A. We have divided into 12 subcommittees, dealing with topics such as water, pollution, transportation, public health and safety. We have six to eight people on each subcommittee, and about half of them are trained scientists or professionals working in the fields their subcommittee is dealing with. For instance, I'm on the public-health committee, where we have a recently retired academic, a scientist, a geochemist, a retired State Department and EPA scientist and a couple of MDs practicing clinical medicine like myself.
Q. What will your subcommittees be looking for?
A. We will be looking for problems with the mine that are not adequately addressed in the draft. We don't think that some of the modeling Rosemont has done is adequate. We will put together all the reports into a response from our larger group and submit it to the Forest Service. (Coronado National Forest Supervisor) Jim Upchurch made the point about trying to be specific in how this mine is approached, and that's what we're trying to do.
Q. What do you hope this will accomplish?
A. At the end of the process, we're going to see whether or not the Forest Service and the people they report to think we have called attention to significant problems, and we will hope that they will go back to Rosemont and say these problems are significant and need fixing. We would hope that it would end up with the "no action" alternative being picked or that they'll have so many problems it won't fit into their business model to fix them. I can see Rosemont being irritated if they feel they are being asked for too much mitigation.
Q. Your group has already said it finds none of the mining alternatives for Rosemont acceptable and that no amount of mitigation could compensate for the damage you believe the mine will do. Will such an absolutist stance now hurt the credibility of what your panels end up saying?
A. That's a tough one to answer. I think we have sensed that there are so many things wrong with that mine in that place, that we believe our analysis and our answers to the draft will provide credible information, enough for the Forest Service to require extensive mitigation - that Rosemont may or may not agree to or may or may not be able to meet. This will be the first time that we put our scientific evidence forward.
Q&A With Mike Varney of the Tucson Metro Chamber:
Q. What will the chamber be doing in the next few months regarding Rosemont?
A. We're going to want to make sure this economic development opportunity unfolds according to the terms, conditions and regulations that cover it. When we see a company prepared to invest millions and millions, create 400 direct jobs and 1,600 indirectly and make a $9 billion local impact, we want to do everything we can to welcome them. But our perspective is that there are rules and regulations and Rosemont Copper has to play by them. If they do, we expect they'll go into business without needless delays and challenges or lawsuits.
Q. What do you think of these panels that Save the Scenic Santa Ritas is organizing?
A. They are well within their rights to go find that independent counsel. You can go to a trial and each side has its panel of experts. They find people who can sway the statistics one way or another. In the final analysis, it will be the U.S. Forest Service who can sway the stats one way or another and who will make the decision. We expect they'll make a decision objectively, embodying the regulations in their codes as objectively as they possibly can.
Q. Will you get your own experts?
A. No, we certainly don't have the budget to go out and hire water and air experts. That's the job of Rosemont, that's their responsibility and I think they have done a good job of meeting it so far. We will certainly attend one or more of the EIS (environmental impact statement) hearings.
Q. Is it a cop-out for your group not to take on the substance of these mining issues in detail as this project goes through the environmental reviews?
A. I don't see it that way at all. Rosemont is responsible for responding to and answering all regulatory requirements set forth by the Forest Service. That's a pass-fail exam. Either they will meet or exceed them or they will not. I don't think this will be open to a lot of selective evaluation. The Forest Service has regs that need to be met and Rosemont has to meet them. Our whole point is if they do, let's put that mine in action and put our neighbors back to work.
The scenic Santa Ritas taken after snowfall this year by a KOLD viewer
And finally......
Save the Scenic Santa Rita mission: to protect the scenic, aesthetic, recreational, environmental and wildlife values of the Santa Rita Mountains, Patagonia Mountains, Canelo Hills and San Rafael Valley through education and outreach, including protection of these areas from degradation due to mining activities.We were formed in 1996 to protect the scenic, aesthetic, recreational and wildlife values of the Santa Rita Mountains through education and outreach, including protection of the Santa Ritas from degradation due to mining activities. The group, started in Sonoita, was originally called Swapwatch, and included members of the Sierra Club, Tucson Audubon Society, The Wildlands Project, the Sonoran Institute, League Of Conservation Voters, and the Wrong Mountain Wildlife Preserve, not to mention many local citizens from Tucson, Sonoita, Vail, and Elgin. We incorporated and changed our name to Save the Scenic Santa Ritas in late 1996. Our main focus in 1996 was stopping the ASARCO/Forest Service land exchange in the Rosemont Valley of the Santa Ritas, and preventing an open pit copper mine there. The land exchange proposal was withdrawn in early 1998, but SSSR continued to monitor the Santa Ritas for new mining proposals. In 2005 Augusta Resource, a small Canadian junior mining company bought the Rosemont Ranch and has proposed a large open pit copper mine on that property that includes dumping their tailings and waste on the adjacent Coronado National Forest lands, our public lands. We are tracking this proposal in addition to new mining and mineral exploration proposals in the Patagonia Mountains, including the Canelo Hills and San Rafael Valley. Our short term goal is to prevent any mining from occurring in these areas. Our long term goal is to obtain permanent protection by supporting withdrawal of the Forest Service lands from mineral entry, and protecting the private lands from mining.
General contact information
Save the Scenic Santa Ritas
8987 E. Tanque Verde #309-157
Tucson, AZ 85749
Email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

And that's my story for today....

1 comment:

Thanks for stopping by!