Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Giffords "not opposed to mining" but criticizes Rosemont proposal

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords told the Arizona Geological Society monthly dinner meeting last night that she is not opposed to mining in southern Arizona but Augusta Resources has not done an adequate job in engaging the community over its proposed Rosemont copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains, about 20 miles south of Tucson. She said that each proposal has to be looked at individually but she held open the possibility of withdrawal of federal lands for the Rosemont mine. She sounded uncertain as to whether other types of development, such as housing tracts, could be built if the mine was prohibited.

She started her talk with updates on the Ft Huachuca - San Pedro River issues and her initiatives to promote solar energy development. She said the Fort contributes $2 billion to the economy but is at risk because of threats to water resources in the San Pedro basin. But Giffords spent most of the evening talking about and answering questions on mining, especially the Rosemont mine. Giffords contrasted Augusta's efforts with those of the Resolution copper mine, which she said had developed strong community and even environmental support.

She said the majority of her constituents oppose the Rosemont mine and she complained that the profits from the mine would leave the U.S., noting that Augusta is a Canadian company. She also raised conerns about water resources needed for the mine.

A lot of geologists from mining and geotechnical companies were in the audience. Many were skeptical or challenged her statements. One noted that the Resolution mine, which Giffords appeared to support, is also foreign owned (Australian and British companies) and asked why she wasn't concerned about their profits leaving Arizona.

Another pointed out that Giffords had also talked about 10 million new residents coming to Arizona in the next 40 years - where, he asked, are they going to find the mineral resources to provide them the necessities of life unless we import them at increased risk to our national security? Someone piped up that to build all the solar panels Giffords wants, they will have to set up the manufacturing plants "at the gates of the copper mines" to make sure they can get the minerals needed.

A representative of the steelworkers union told Giffords that mining jobs are the highest paying blue collar jobs in the region and even a small number of them can have a big impact on communities. He reminded her that he had campaigned hard for her election to Congress.

Someone else pointedly argued that if Augusta Resources is meeting all the state and federal requirements for responsible mining, should they be turned down simply because there's a "mob that wants to lynch them." That comment drew strong positive response from many in the audience.

Giffords committed to a number of questioners that she would continue the dialogue with them on these issues and the entire 1872 Mining Law reconsideration.

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