While enduring delays at the Houston airport on my way back to Tucson from south Texas on June 8, I had the good fortune to strike up a conversation with Joan Williams, who lives near Sonoita, Arizona. She is a mover and shaker in a grassroots effort to prevent a new mine from sprouting up in the very scenic Santa Rita Mountains. She convinced me to take action, and I urge you to do the same.
Southern Arizona is already studded with mines, and/or the scars left in their aftermath, and this one, proposed by Augusta Resource Corporation (a Canadian entity) and its subsidiary Rosemont Copper Company, would be a real eyesore and an environmental mess. It is certainly not an industry compatible with the ranching lifestyle currently enjoyed by residents of Santa Cruz County, or the eco-tourism industry. I can just imagine the next tour operator pointing out a bird sitting “right over there on that pile of tailings.”
The root of this current mess of public hearings, environmental impact statements, and other bureaucratic appeasement is the antiquated General Mining Law of 1872. As unimaginable as it seems, the price of staking a claim has not changed one cent since that date. You can still stake a claim for $2.50 to $5.00 an acre. Our current federal officials are loathe to impede corporate mining interests and have not acted to even reflect current prices for metals extracted from claims.
So, we are left to fight mining claims on a case-by-case basis, with little help from government. Enter Save the Scenic Santa Ritas and the Hilton Ranch Road Community Organization, both devoted to blocking the proposed mine. The groups have succeeded in mobilizing a large contingent of local residents, citizen activists, scientists, and other stakeholders. Victories have thus far amounted to delaying the endorsement of the mine through normal bureaucratic channels. This is a pretty mean feat considering the tactics of the opposition, which have included buying up domain names likely to be used by groups opposing the mine. Such “greenwashing” has become the norm for public relations by the natural resource extraction industry. Fortunately, you can’t fool all the people all of the time, and more and more citizens are waking up every day.
Please consider making a difference through public comments, support of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, and other approaches. Paraphrasing a popular legal quote, “A threat to the natural environment anywhere is a threat to the natural environment everywhere.” It is true. How can we expect other nations to clean up their act when we refuse to clean up our own? Thank you.