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This morning, I read some surprising news about my congressional district. Of all the candidates running for CD3 here in Arizona, Democrats and Republicans alike are all in favor of the proposed Rosemont copper mine except Rep. Raul Grijalva.

Since the folks who live near the mining site stand to lose tourism jobs, not to mention access to clean groundwater, I would have expected all the Democratic candidates to support them. Apparently, only Rep. Grijalva does. As always, he makes me proud that I have such a stalwart progressive representing me in Congress.

Makes up a bit for my Senators, I suppose.

I found a nice background piece published in the NYT back in March, that explains the history of this project and the environmental concerns that people living there cite in opposition to the proposed copper mine. Although the company claims it will conserve water by storing "dry-stack" tailings from the mine instead of a more water-intensive slurry, the obvious problem is that the mess could get rained on, washing pollutants into the soil and groundwater. The somewhat laughable counter-argument from Kathy Arnold, Rosemont’s vice president of environmental and regulatory affairs, is that somehow the rainwater all evaporates. This is kind of trivial to refute for anyone actually living in Arizona.

In addition, the tailings would not stay dry, he said. The mine’s critics say rain would be likely to infiltrate, leaching toxic pollutants into the groundwater.

Ms. Arnold disagreed, saying that with 16 to 18 inches of rain a year and 72 inches of evaporation, “you always have a deficit of water, a loss.”

But Thomas Meixner, an associate professor of hydrology at the University of Arizona who reviewed separate groundwater models created for both Rosemont Copper and Pima County, disputed that assertion. “Annual evaporation does vastly outstrip precipitation,” he said. “But it’s all a question of timing. We can get two inches during summer rainstorms.

“That water can percolate pretty deep into the soil,” Mr. Meixner said, “and is likely to continue percolating through.”

Fairly obvious to anyone who lives here during monsoon season, the rain doesn't sizzle and boil on impact rather than soak in! I mean, it's hot, but really.

Now, I expect the GOP candidates to all go for the mine. No surprise there. But I am a bit disappointed that the other Democratic candidates and their supporters are willing to acknowledge the potential cost to the environment, but ultimately dismiss it in favor of a few hundred jobs. These are the statements from the other Democrats running in the CD3 primary:

Amanda Aguirre (D) - "The Hispanic community is very anxious to see the job creation this mine will bring to the area. …The company has done everything it can with technology to protect the environment."

Manny Arreguin (D) - He said he would support the mine, based on the need for jobs, and would critically examine the evidence that new technology makes the project safe for the environment.

So while the United Steelworkers Local 937 is planning to picket Grijalva's office today, volunteers for Raul are planning to go door-to-door rather than stage a counter-protest. Sadly I cannot join those volunteers. It's a nice morning, for this time of year, anyway. So the best I can do is write about it.

Note to Amanda Aguirre and Manny Arreguin - screwing over the environment, baking in future cleanup costs for taxpayers, and sticking it to the local tourism industry is not a good plan for getting my vote.

It's good to be concerned about bringing new jobs into the area, and I get where the USW is coming from. But if the mining industry gains jobs while tourism loses, what's the point of that? And these mining companies do not have a good record of keeping their promises about the environment and the water supply. The water out here is not something we can afford to casually mess around with. Is it that easy to believe that their mine tailings somehow won't get rained on or that the water will just evaporate rather than wash through? If it is, I recommend observing some monsoon rains when they get here.

Originally posted to The Tytalan Way on Sat May 26, 2012 at 12:24 PM PDT.

Also republished by Baja Arizona Kossacks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)

    "Creationists make it sound as though a 'theory' is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night." - Isaac Asimov

    by tytalus on Sat May 26, 2012 at 12:24:27 PM PDT

  •  Rep. Raul Grijalva (8+ / 0-)

    Yes, he's on the right side of the issue as far as I understand it.

    He's one of the few almost exemplary progressives in Congress and certainly one of the most courageous from everything I know about him.

    As someone who is not a constituent or even from Arizona, it has long puzzled me that he doesn't receive the attention or admiration on Dkos that I think he merits, especially since he posts here fairly often.  Just a random puzzlement since I always agree with his positions and the courage with which he pursues them.

    99%er. 100% opposed to fundamentalist/neoconservative/neoliberal oligarchs.

    by blueoasis on Sat May 26, 2012 at 01:51:09 PM PDT

    •  Well, for one thing... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bisbonian, blueoasis, Larsstephens, Lujane

      he doesn't get on TV or radio as much as Bernie Sanders or Alan Grayson  :)  It is odd though. I would have to do some research to find anything to disagree with him on, and I'm not even sure I'd find much of anything.

      "Creationists make it sound as though a 'theory' is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night." - Isaac Asimov

      by tytalus on Sat May 26, 2012 at 02:12:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I live in Bisbee... (6+ / 0-)

    otherwise known as the Queen of the Copper Camps.  Well, the Queen is a bit of a mess.

    Bisbee does not have a municipal water system.  Never has.  Copper came first, the needs of the citizens a distant second.  Water anywhere in and around town is toxic.  So, Arizona's first water company was formed, and named (imaginatively) the Arizona Water Company.  Originally, they hauled water into town in canvas bags on the backs of burros.  It's gotten a little better than that, recently, and we have pipes and stuff.

    The water comes from the company's wells, several miles outside (and downhill) from town, in a feeder to the San Pedro River called Greenbush Draw.  All well and good.  Except that a mine tailings pile was built south of town, a few miles uphill from the wells.  A wet one, but for the last 32 years it has been 'dry'.  No matter.  The rain falling on top of it  has leached through it, and a measurable plume of sulfate-and-other-toxin laden water is making it's way toward the wells.  FreeportMcMoran (the mining company) is working feverishly (for about a year, so far) to bury the tailings pile in a layer of fresh dirt, sculpted in such a way to divert the water, and keep it from leaching the pile.  This is their "mitigation" project, and may actually help, but the very fact that they need to do it exposes the falsehood of your locally proposed "dry" tailings pile.

    As a side note, the City Council apparently thought the tailings pile would not pollute our water supply soon enough, so they sited the new, Bob Kasun Memorial Sewage Treatment Plant just two miles upstream from the wells.  The race is on.

    •  That's some terrible news (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lujane, blueoasis

      I appreciate the voice of experience, it's good to have an example of where these ideas were tried and shown to fail. Hell of a way to learn, though. I hope the folks around the Santa Ritas aren't forced to re-learn it.

      "Creationists make it sound as though a 'theory' is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night." - Isaac Asimov

      by tytalus on Sat May 26, 2012 at 02:31:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I lived in Bisbee for ten years and the water is (6+ / 0-)

      horrible.  We couldn't even drink it.  You can't get out of bathing in it.  Many people I knew got cancer and died young in Bisbee.  I think it contributed to my husband dying of metastasized cancer young.  Not just the water but all the exposed minerals and leach ponds, dumps etc.  I have decided Bisbee is not a healthy place to live.  Nor any other mining town that has exposed heavy minerals and toxic chemicals from the process which is many towns in AZ.  I also live near Clarkdale in the Verde Valley now, down hill from Jerome another mining town.  The travesty is everywhere in AZ.  I did live in Bisbee when the smelter in Douglas was still going.  It took over ten years to shut it down while they paid the fines for violating the EPA rules.  It took a lot of effort on the part of people who lived there to shut it down and then they just moved it to Cannanea thirty miles across the border.

  •  Raul Grijalva is a progressive champion. nt (5+ / 0-)
  •  Rep. Raul Grijalva is a shining light. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tytalus

    We need more on the ground reporting like this. Thank you.

  •  Jobs VS environment arguments always overlook (0+ / 0-)

    how many jobs are killed by toxic projects, how much money is lost from tourism or from negative health effects due to the toxic projects and how long the bad things last VS how long the jobs last, Environmental protection always is a net gain and these toxic projects are a net loss. And most often it is within commercial feasibility to prevent the damages and do the project but there is just less profit for the corporation.

    I'd tip you but they cut off my tip box.

    by OHdog on Sun May 27, 2012 at 10:20:29 AM PDT

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