Thursday, March 01, 2012

Hundreds turn out for Holbrook town hall on potash mining

The first public meeting on potash mining in the Holbrook area brought out hundreds of residents and many from throughout the region last night. Pat Avery, CEO of American West Potash and Josh Bleak, CEO of Passport Potash, each gave overviews of their company's status and plans. I joined Pat and Josh on stage after their presentations to participate in a Q&A session with questions from the audience.

Teri Walker, with the Arizona Journal, laid out the opportunities and challenges facing the community with the proposed construction and mining jobs and economic development.

The focus of the evening was economic development and many in the audience asked about jobs and opportunities to provide goods and services to the mines. Pat projected an operation employing 400+, both mining underground and processing the salts at the surface, with an annual operating budget of $400 million.

Questions were raised about the potential health impacts on miners and plant workers, on ground water quality, and air quality.

The event was organized by the Holbrook Business Development Group, a recently formed volunteer organization. I estimated 300-400 in the audience but one of the organizers estimated it between 400-500 [right, residents arriving in Performing Arts Center at the Holbrook high school for the town hall. My really lousy cell phone photo]. Overall, there was a tremendous sense of optimism, but with a recognition that something this big and this new in a small community needed to be thought through carefully.


  1. What about potential impacts to Petrified Forest National Park? Did any of the Park's managers or paleontologist speak about the proposal? Will the mining operations become a visual (or physical) detraction to "Triassic Park"? Will the mining company be willing to mitigate impacts by helping to purchase lands that were slated to be added to the park but not funded by Congress?

    No one wants to see good jobs nipped in the bud but was anything mentioned about the impacts to the park? In Arizona, it is alright to be pro-mining but at what point does this become counter productive to tourism?

    Fair questions to ask I think.

  2. Wayne, both Brad Traver, Petrified Forest NP Superintendent, and Bill Parker the park paleontologist were at the town hall. Neither one asked questions during the session.

    American West CEO Pat Avery has promised publicly that none of their proposed mining operations will be visible from the park.

    At the Watershed conference in Show Low last month, Brad gave a formal presentation (see my post at and said that he would have preferred that the potash was 20 miles from the park but given the facts, he felt the situation was becoming a "win-win" for the park and the mining company. He further said the two operations seem to be compatible.

    The park has been able to afford to buy a large tract of private lands to infill the park boundaries, when the surface and mineral rights were split, making it finally affordable.

    In talking with local residents after the town hall, I heard from people who draw much of the livelihood from the mostly seasonal tourist trade. They didn't see a mine as a threat but as a year-round base that will allow them to survive and perhaps even thrive.