Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Recent reports of uranium in monitoring wells near the Sierrita copper mine in southern Arizona have raised concerns from some in the public about potential uranium contamination from proposed new mines in the region.
Uranium is a naturally-occurring mineral throughout Arizona, especially in areas underlain by igneous (ie. granitic) rocks, volcanics, and in the north, the Chinle Formation. AZGS released a report in 2002 on "Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) in Arizona" (Open-file Report 02-13, by Jon Spencer) showing the concentrations found across the state.
The Arizona House (HB2323) and Senate (SB1338) have now each passed revisions to last year's real estate disclosure bill, including elimination of the erroneous reference to "maps of soils subject to fissures." AZGS supported the change, as soil types are not indicators of fissures and no such maps exist.
The new bill also addresses the misperception that homebuyers were required to buy disclosure reports from private vendors under the old law.
The bill now goes to the Governor for signature. The Senate bill can be found at http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/legtext/48leg/1r/bills/sb1338s.htm
Monday, February 26, 2007
Testimony from the six invited witnesses at Saturday’s Congressional field hearing on the proposed Rosemont copper mine and the 1872 Mining Law, are posted at http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/hearings/hearingdetail.aspx?NewsID=15. The Committee will only be posting the written testimony of the invited witnesses on their website.
Additional testimony may be submitted to the Committee clerk, Holly Wagenet at email@example.com in Word or Word Perfect format, within 10 business days of the hearing.
When I find out how to see the other testimony voluntarily submitted to the hearing, I’ll share that.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
The Congressional field hearing in
At yesterday’s hearing, Jamie Sturgis from Augusta Resources, the Canadian owner of the Rosemont property, projected total production over the next 20 years at 500 million pounds of copper (roughly 5% of the total
However, in response to the Rosemont proposal and other proposed mines in the area,
Huckleberry and others made the argument that no mining operation in the county has ever been fully and adequately mitigated, leaving the county and citizens stuck with the consequences, both environmental and economic. He stated that the impacts from the Rosemont mine in all likelihood cannot be mitigated.
Other top public concerns were listed as water quantity and quality, road safety with increased truck traffic, and the visual impacts.
Contrast that with nearby
The Star reported that two years ago the Safford had only one residential building permit issued, while presently there are more than 2,000 residential units being planned or built.
There is grumbling about housing costs going up in Stafford as the present mine work force of 600 increases to 1,000 later this year, and about how hard it is to find workers for local businesses when the mine is paying such high wages. Traffic jams are a problem for the first time in Safford. However, even those complaining see greater benefits to the community from the mine.
So, these two counties are not just 90 miles apart. They are on opposite sides of a fundamental view of the West. For
Monday, February 19, 2007
(AIPG President Kelvin Buchanan , President-elect Dan St. Germain, and Bill Siok, AIPG Executive Director at AZGS)
AIPG is also organizing the 3rd International Professional Geology conference for 2008 to be held in Flagstaff and has a strong local organizing committee working with them.
A few notes from the meeting include:
Wes Ward, Western Regional Geologist with the USGS, headquartered in
- Energy and minerals
- Human health
- Climate change
- National water census
The USGS Minerals program is slated for nearly a 50% budget cut by Congress, from $57M to $27M. [note: Kate Johnson, Program Coordinator for the USGS Mineral Resources Program (MRP), provided updated numbers for me. The FY2007 budget for the MRP is $53.2M with the Administration proposing a reduction of $23.3 or about 44%, to $29.9M. In the past, Congress has restored cuts to MRP that were proposed by the Administration but there is no assurance that will happen this year. Kate invites anyone with questions or comments to contact her at 703-648-6110 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The MRP website is at http://minerals.usgs.gov]
Joe Hart, the newly elected State Mining Inspector, talked about the challenges of trying to close up the 10,000+ abandoned mines in
Dale Nations, chair of the Arizona Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said that
Dr. Terry West, a professor of civil and environmental engineering from Purdue, and current national president of the Association of Engineering an Environmental Geology (AEG) tag teamed with Jessica Humble, president of the Phoenix chapter of AEG to talk about the rapid growth of the organization. The Phoenix chapter is only two years old with an active speakers program.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Congress is holding a field hearing in
Rep. Raul Grijalva from
In addition to the Rosemont mine, the hearing will examine the 1872 General Mining Law. This second theme is gaining national attention with some speculation that this might be the opening round in a renewed effort to overturn the law.
A large local audience is expected for the hearing, but the inclusion of the 1872 Mining Law issue promises to bring in mining proponents and critics from around the country.
Testimony at the hearing is by invitation only.
For the formal notice of the hearing, go to -
Joint Subcommittee Oversight Field Hearing: Our National Forests at Risk: The 1872 Mining Law and its Impact on the
The House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, and the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, will hold a joint oversight field hearing on “Our National Forests at Risk: The 1872 Mining Law and its Impact on the Santa Rita Mountains of Arizona.” This hearing will examine the proposed Rosemont Mine, adjacent to the
House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and
“Our National Forests at Risk: The 1872 Mining Law and its Impact on the
Saturday, February 17, 2007
The prices of high-end minerals are reportedly rising 10% a year or more. What’s driving this? Well, our inside expert who I dub “Deep Mine” says that the stratospheric prices of fine art are driving the wealthy to the relatively cheap minerals markets.
Where the top prices for art can easily run into the tens of millions of dollars (and over $100 million for the most sought-ever items), the world’s best mineral specimens command only a fraction of that, perhaps one million dollars.
It’s really only the more exquisite and rarer pieces that are getting the top increases. (above - tourmaline on quartz; asking price $2.4 million)
So, you shouldn’t expect the $20 chunk of amethyst sitting on your bookshelf to finance your retirement or the kid’s college tuition.
The buyers of the top mineral specimens in many cases did not actually show up in
Minerals are still not widely collected, at least compared to fine art, suggesting that continued appreciation may be expected at least as long as Matisse’s and Rembrandt’s continue to climb.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Last Wednesday night as vendors set up their booths in the
“Deep Mine,” my guide to the high-rollers in the mineral-collecting world, explained that the owner of Collector’s Edge displays and sells pieces from his own mines, including a gold mine in
Within ten minutes of being put on display, according to Deep Mine, all five pieces sold for about $700,000 each.
Last night, in celebration of Charles Darwin’s 198th birthday, “Darwin Day” events were held in a couple dozen cities around the county. A screening of the documentary film “Flock of Dodos” brought out an audience of 425 to the Loft Cinema in
It was exciting for me to watch it because I was there in
Not coincidentally, the recently elected pro-science Board is scheduled to replace the ID drafted science standards later today and replace them with the well regarded real science standards that were derailed when the ID-controlled Board took control in 2005.
Following last night’s screening of the movie, I joined two
The work of Joanna and her colleagues demonstrates that the so-called “irreducible complexities” postulated by ID really can be explained by science and don’t need to rely on supernatural forces. The Intelligent Designer, who is invoked mostly to explain the unknowns in science, keeps shrinking away, as a “god of the gaps,” as science explains more and more of the natural world around us.
Joanna and Peter did a remarkable job explaining these complex concepts and kept the audience engaged until 10:30 pm when the Loft staff shooed everyone out. The audience members asked penetrating questions and demonstrated a passionate concern about the issues. This may be one of the reasons that ID creationism thus far has not been able to get a toehold in
Sunday, February 11, 2007
The official 53rd annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show ends today, along with most of the other 49 satellite shows that have been set up around
Buyers are estimated at 50,000-60,000 but that seems conservative. It’s not uncommon to see deals for five or six figures being worked out on the floor of a cramped room at the Days Inn, with a box of the “really good stuff” having been brought out from under the bed or other out of sight storage.
One of my colleagues was here the last 15 days, buying and selling for his personal collection. He considers himself a player at the low end of the high end buyers, which means he deals in the $10,000 specimens and not the $100,000 and above pieces. I’ll call him “Deep Mine.”
Among the stories Deep Mine shared over a glass of wine the other night was of being invited to a spacious home in the
Over the next few days, I will share more stories and observations. Next: