Sunday, May 09, 2010

In situ copper mine plans for Florence area

The proposed Florence Copper Project could produce as much as half of the 2.8 billion pounds of copper reserves at the 300 foot deep deposit through in situ processes, according to a lengthy description of the project in the TriValley newspaper site.

Mine operator Curis Resources Ltd. plans on spending $45 million over the next two years to bring the project online for a possible 15-20 year production run. [right, project site. Credit, Curis Resources]

The company says the in situ methods will dramatically reduce or eliminate many of the environmental and other impacts associated with open pit mines.


  1. Anonymous2:24 PM

    I would invite you to read a report by the US EPA regarding the dangers of in-situ copper mining. The title is "Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials in the Southwestern Copper Belt of Arizona" and it actually includes the mine you are referrencing above. Curis Resources has a large financial reason for us to believe that this type of mining will be safe and environmentally friendly. If you start reading the EPA report on page 30 it shows that these naturally occurring radioactive materials will be leached out of the ground and into the surrounding water table. This will not be something that the EPA can monitor, since the Pregnant Leach Solution (PLS) is not within their jurisdiction to monitor. We are trying to convince the Town Council of Florence to deny a rezoning of this property and save our town's drinking water from possible contamination. If you have an opinion, I would like to hear it. Thanks.

    John A. Riley, OD'
    Resident, Town of Florence, AZ

    1. Anonymous9:15 AM

      Nothing absolutely nothing is risk free.. the left will use every problem real or imagined to halt mining in America. the greens don't give a schist about the environment; they project green envy and greed and guilt of their own on to productive hard working miners. it is a waste of time and money to negotiate w them. the greens are narcissists. They are superior to people who create wealth out of what was previously worthless rock, the ecos accept NO responsibility of the havock and pain they have caused Animal farm.. these green with envy mediocre empty lives cannot admit they are failures in living life as a productive individual.. thus they want to be part of the collective that makes man's life one of poverty and despair. Truly the eco fascists of today are as amoral and empty and nihilistic as Mao and stalin and hitler.. they just hide it better.

  2. John, thanks for sharing this report. Our geologists had not seen it before and are reading it now. Certainly, copper mining processes can inadvertently (or deliberately) remove uranium from one set of materials and concentrate it in another. However, the Arizona Geological Survey has not generally dealt with anthropogenic modification of geologic materials, but rather with geologic materials in their natural state. To this end we produced a report and map on Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) that was intended as a baseline in evaluating Technologically Enhanced NORM:

    Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) in Arizona, Jon E. Spencer, Arizona Geological Survey Open-File Report 02-13, 11 pages, September 2002

  3. I'm glad I found this site while doing research on the subject. I live in Florence with my pregnant wife and two toddlers. I'm also a candidate for Senate in the district (LD 23). As such, I'm concerned and extremely interested in getting as much factual data as possible to form an intelligent opinion. The seed of fear has been planted, and before it grows out of control I honestly want to know if it's justified. Please keep updating information on this. Matt Byers

  4. Anonymous2:41 PM

    The Town of Florence is planning to have experts from The University of Arizona come down and talk to the Town Council about in-situ copper mining. Hopefully an independent, third-party can help shed some light on the subject for us.

    -John Riley, OD

  5. Anonymous12:45 PM

    Very interesting comments. Finally some comments that are meat instead of hype.

    What I wold look for is how the leach solution is to be disposed of after the SX/EW treatment. Is is to be recycled back into the deposit as new leach solution or otherwise contained. If put back into the deposit then the Uranium may stay exactly where it is, in the deposit.

    Or it could be removed as part of the copper extraction, though I have not seen any indication that is planned. At the current price of uranium that may actually be economically viable.

    I find it interesting that there is a 50 foot cap of clay above the deposit. Usually containment ponds require no more than 1 to 2 feet of clay lining so that 50 feet is way above the basic requirements.

    The other thing I would look at is the linings of the drill holes that will be needed.

    One less worry is that Curis is using the technology and plans developed by BHP. In my experience I have found that the very large mining companies tend to go overboard in extra protection compared with the smaller companies. For instance, Kennecott Utah Copper at it's Barny's Canyon operations (heap leach gold) not only used two clay linings instead of the one required by government regulations, they included a sand layer to catch and capture any leaks that might occur through the plastic and clay layers. The extra leak capture layer is not, to my knowledge, required by any government regulator on the planet, but was included as a back up of the back up by Kennecott as part of their desire to be as safe as possible. BHP, like Kennecott, tends to greatly err on the side of extra protection.

    I have seen some real horror stories on mining pollution, like the million dollar McMansions built on very contaminated 100 year old untreated tailings in Park City, Utah (being a rich area the EPA folded in requiring Superfund remediation and just required a statement on the deeds warning against letting kids dig in the dirt, no gardens, etc.). In nearly every case I have seen it was either a non-mining company (in the Park City case it was a well known real estate developer who was clueless as to proper protection) or a small mining company too cash strapped to overdo environmental protection.

    Au Hound
    Utah Gold Prospectors Club

  6. Glad we have that report, 'Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials in the Southwestern Copper Belt of Arizona', however it speaks a bit above my knowledge base, so I'm going to ask some very basic questions. First, I understand that there will be a pipe that will go through the aquifer and into the ore deposit, and the sulfuric acid mixture will run through this pipe. Now if I understood the report (page 30)correctly, EPA won't issue a permit if the water in the aquifer is for drinking purposes. So is this aquifer used for drinkning water? Secondly, regardless of whether or not this aquifer is currently used for drinking water, how safe is this 'tube' that runs through it? Will it crack or rupture if the ground shifts? What magnitude earthquake can it withstand? Finally, if this aquifer is contaminated, what's the possibility that it can be cleaned up, and if so at what cost? What's the route that this contamination will take? For example, how long will it be before our drinking water, Gila river, and such are contaminated?


  7. Average Jane, your questions are complex and are on topics that we at AZGS are not following. We would have to do a fair bit of research to investigate them and I expect that there may not be simple answers to some of them. These are much better posed to the AZ Dept. of Environmental Quality.

    I'm sorry to punt on this, but we've had our state-funded staff cut by 2/3 in the past 3 years and don't have someone to assign to this.

  8. Anonymous5:32 PM

    I am against this being located so close to a major population with so many children. This area of Florence, San Tan Valley and Queen Creek has so many young children that we cannot afford the risk. Surely there is copper somewhere else. Please think of the children and how it may effect their health.

  9. Anonymous7:05 PM

    As there have been previous drillings on the property - the clay is not solid and there is no finite way to tell where the drilling occurred. (The previous mine has not been in operation that I can remember at least 20 plus years. They maintained the location as they needed to monitor the soil. They type of mining was not at all what this foreign Canadian company is trying to accompolish.) Therefore, in the event of a spill or a leak, it will enter our aquafir(as where the previous company explored the land is not documented), ruining our source of water. (Did I mention we live in a desert? Therefore, according to page 30 of the report, the EPA should not issue a permit as the water in the aquifer is for drinking purposes.
    Also, at the most recent Planning and Rezoning meeting, Curis mentioned monitoring the effects of the wildlife on their land (putting up fences to keep tortoises out, etc.) - If it is so safe, why are they putting up a fence? That land habitats animals who serve an important role in our communities ecosystem.
    Life-long resident of the Town of Florence (with family in Anthem that I have serious concern for as their water source stands to be ruined)

  10. Anonymous9:37 PM

    Question - If permitted to mine on the state land portion, but not on the Town of Florence portion, is it legal for their "evaporation pond" to be located on Town property if the Town votes against the project?

  11. Anonymous10:03 PM

    If your Town disapproves the project, the evaporation pond would need to be relocated onto the state land portion. I have done an extensive search and have found no other in-situ mines located within such a close proximity, a mile and a half away, with a k-8 school (about 1,000 students), according to my internet searches. My thoughts will be with your town and I hope this possible crisis can be overted.

  12. Anonymous9:31 PM

    I am sure this is an old thread but I thought I would go ahead and post this link:

    It seems that the residents of Florence should be a bit more worried about the poor water treatment services that Johnson Utilities provides and a little less concerned about a company that is really going to great lengths to ensure a safe mine.

    Furthermore, in response to an earlier post that claims the EPA report, from 1998 I believe: NORM was found to be highly leachable in some of the mineralization but there was no statement as to the likelihood that this would leach into the the groundwater supply located above the the clay aquitard.

    Again, as I have pointed out before on other forums, we all want electricity, and air conditioning, and all the other modern conveniences that make life so comfortable, but aren't we being just a bit hypocritical when we say its ok for other people, and especially those in third world countries to bear the burden of risk for our lifestyles of relatively luxtury?