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.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.
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.”
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."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.
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.
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.