Local Politicians Against Jobs

Southern Arizona is blessed with abundant mineral resources, and cursed with a Congressional delegation and county supervisors, such as Ray Carroll, who would deny us that blessing.

Representatives Gabrielle Giffords and Raul Grijalva have introduced HR2944, the Southern Arizona Public Lands Protection Act of 2009 into the House. This bill would prohibit staking of mining claims, mineral leases, and geothermal projects on all federal land in Pima and Santa Cruz Counties (subject to pre-existing rights). This is essentially a response to the Rosemont mining venture.

Apparently, these politicians are not in favor of good jobs or economic opportunity.

According to testimony before the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, the Steelworkers union opposes the bill. “HR 2944 is bad public policy. The bill would completely bypass the federal EIS process put in place under the National Environmental Policy Act for consideration of proposed mining and minerals operations that involve public lands. The EIS (environmental impact statement) process involves state and local agencies on a collaborating basis and works well to thoroughly examine proposed projects. Congressional intervention to enact land use and resources development policy on a county-by-county basis is a bad idea. In addition, job creation would be sacrificed in this bill. Mining plays a strong economic role and has done so for more than a century in Arizona.”

“In Arizona, the average mining job pays $60,000, which is 44% higher than the average pay in the state. Tourism and retail jobs on the other hand pay, on average, about half this amount or just over $29,000. In addition, for every new mining job, another 4 indirect jobs are created. Arizona is home to 411 mining operations that provide direct employment to about 18,480 people and another 34,360 people indirectly from mining activity occurring both in and outside the state for a total of 52,840 jobs statewide.”

The law is also poorly written and may have unintended consequences. For instance, the law would prohibit “all forms of entry, appropriation, and disposal under the public land laws.” The word “entry,” in what I think is the intended context, means “mineral entry” the terminology used for staking and registering a mining claim. But, as written, the law could be construed to prohibit cattle grazing, hunting, hiking, other forms of recreation, and use by the border patrol. The only “entry” we will see is by illegal aliens and drug smugglers.

To give you some idea of the mineral potential of Pima County and the folly of HR2944, I present below, excerpts from a 2001 publication, “Mineral Potential of Eastern Pima County, Arizona” published by the Arizona Geological Survey as Contributed Report 01-B. This report was written in response to Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan by The Southwestern Minerals Exploration Association, a group of local geologists (I am a co-author of the report).

Mineral production has always been viewed as an essential industry, not only to generate wealth and provide employment, but also for the array of products that are consumed by a society. Terms such as Bronze Age and Iron Age have served to demonstrate the essential role of minerals in improving a society’s standard of living. Today, in what we have come to call the Technology Age, the demand for minerals and mineral-bearing products has grown exponentially. This is not surprising, over the last four thousand years, societies with mineral technologies have flourished, while those lacking mineral resources have either conquered to take others, or have ultimately perished.

Mineral production is essential to our civilization because minerals provide the raw materials which allow our society to function. Pima County is endowed with many mineral resources, not only copper mines, but also the important products such as sand, gravel, and limestone used everyday in supporting the infrastructure of our cities. It is essential that these mineral resources, and the lands where they occur, remain available for exploration and development.

Pima County has a unique, and complex, geological history which makes it critical habitat for large copper deposits, geothermal resources, and many industrial minerals such as sand, gravel, gypsum, and limestone. This report documents known occurrences of these mineral deposits, and delineates areas with the greatest potential for future discovery of additional mineral deposits, based on existing geological and geochemical data, and upon proven methods of investigation.

Spencer R. Titley, University of Arizona Professor, wrote in 1982: “The porphyry copper deposits of southeastern Arizona and contiguous regions compose one of the richest copper metallogenic provinces on earth and perhaps the richest of seven separate porphyry copper provinces which surround the Pacific Basin. At least thirty-five separately named significant occurrences of porphyry-intrusion-related concentrations of copper occur here and the

record of discovery suggests that more will be found.” (Titley, Spencer R., 1982, Advances in Geology of the Porphyry Copper Deposits, Southwestern North America: University of Arizona Press, Tucson Arizona 560 pp.)

The first map below shows the distribution of known copper deposits in Pima and Santa Cruz Counties. The red color show outcrops of Laramide intrusives, which can be the generators of the mineral deposits. The brown shows outcrops of older host rocks. Additional potential occurs in the valleys under cover.


The next map shows the mines and areas that hold additional potential for discovery in Pima County. The broad orange arcs are areas favorable for exploration and discovery of porphyry copper deposits as defined by members of the Southwestern Mineral Exploration Association. The yellow areas (e.g. G-1) are tracts permissive for the occurrence of porphyry copper deposits defined by the U.S.Geological Survey in OFR 90-276 “Preliminary Mineral Resource Assessment of the Tucson and Nogales 1 x 2 Quadrangles, Arizona.” The green areas (e.g. T-1) are tracts favorable for the presence of undiscovered mineral deposits – High Potential Tract defined by the U. S. Geological Survey in Bulletin 2083 A-K “Resource Potential and Geology of Coronado National Forest, Southeastern Arizona and Southwestern N.M.”


The next map shows (in blue) the geothermal potential in Pima County. This is a low temperature resource suitable for space heating and cooling for industrial parks and residential developments such as apartments, town houses, condominiums and neighborhoods composed of single-family dwellings. This type of resource is also suitable for aquaculture and greenhouse agriculture. Studies show that 30 degree C water is ubiquitous at depths of 300m and that potential exists for potential for 50- to 55 degree C water at a depth of 1,000 m.

The red area is a mercury anomaly which sits below our water recharge project in Avra Valley (does Tucson Water know about this?). Not to worry though, the mercury anomaly is 75-750 ppb Hg while ADEQ allowable residential standard is 6,700 ppb Hg. (Reference: Hahman, W. R. and Allen, T. J., 1981, Subsurface stratigraphy and geothermal resource potential of the Avra Vally, Pima County Arizona: Arizona Bureau Geol & Min. Technology, OFR 81-5).


The American mining industry pioneered Arizona. For more than one hundred years, metal and aggregate companies have operated under the rules and regulations set out in legal frameworks.

Few anticipated that they would lose access to land for future mineral development. Viewed as a societal good, access to the land encouraged growth. The mineral products provided much needed materials for construction, trade, and local economies. Land-use planning was motivated by economic development needs, manifest in the desire for improved tax bases and infrastructure. Therefore mining plays a key role. We should not let short-sighted politicians deprive us of these benefits.

(Disclaimer: I spent my professional career exploring for and helping develop mineral deposits, and I worked for a major mining company. I have, however, no connection with Rosemont or Augusta Resources.)


  1. What this author so sadly does not take into consideration at all is the challenges humanity faces with regards to balancing our economic needs with those of our needs for an environment that does not make us deathly ill or forces us to pay exhorbitant amounts of severely shrinking revenues to replace one of our most valuable natural resources, CLEAN DRINKING WATER.  Moving forward there will have to be some tough choices made regarding these conflicts.  I give credit to any elected representative who has the guts to consider the long term consequences vs. the short
    term gains which is what our country has been doing for far too long which has inevitably led to one unsolvable crisis after another.  Just take a hard look at our world today!

  2. That mine would practically be in my back yard, so I would rather it not start at all, thank you very much. Ask the folks in Sahuarita and Green Valley just how much fun having an open pit mine near you can be.

  3. The state of Arizona is the number one producer of copper in the U.S, and copper continues to be an important contributor to our local and state  economy.  
    As the resource map indicates, Pima county and the Santa Ritas are prime potential areas for future production of copper and other minerals.     With the current economic slump and unemployment  near 10%, we direly need a market-based economic stimulus, such as Rosemont mine would provide.  But not if our  politicians, the anti-industrial left, and other selfish interests of this community have their way!  What kind of logic is it to close off a large chunk of U.S. Forest  (H.R. 2944 ) for the sole purpose of killing a mine?   It is absurd. 
    First, it won’t wash, because of issues of  private property infringements  and pre-existing rights. Second, such bullying would further public distrust/fear of an increasingly  arrogant, oppressive and out-of-control government; as it has traditionally  been a legal and constitutional right to develop mineral resources on public lands.   Finally, it would deprive working families of this community  the  benefits of good-paying jobs, broader  tax base and an improved economy.   Sorry, Rep’s Grijalva and Giffords, H.R. 2944 should and will be dead on arrival. Sorry,  Supervisors  Huckelberry and  Carroll, the people are fed up with your anti-development policies.     The good news is, November isn’t too far off, when we will have the opportunity to remove these self-serving, anti-business  politicians from office.

  4. Jonathan–so you think that we the people should pay for the costly process to drink effluent, while the mining company pumps good quality ground water. I’m sure that we all think that is sound reasoning. Just like thinking that we have to dig up every oz of copper now and save none for the future, when there will surely be better methods of extracting copper.
    And you are simply mistaken about mining pay. My friend that worked for Twin Buttes as a truck driver in 1982 made $15. hour…. the same pay a truck driver gets today. The numbers are high because they average in the pay of management.

  5. The economic benefits from the Rosemont mine have consistently been overstated by its proponets. The majority of the jobs created will be typical for an open pit mine. The pay will be decent but there just isn’t going to be enough of them to make much of an impact in the short or long term.
    Most of the revenue generated will find itself out of state and even out of country, not to mention the fact that the cost of copper and it’s products aren’t going to be a bit cheaper to us just because we furnished the raw materials.
    Historically, every mine in Arizona has left us with a negative environmental impact and I see no reason to believe them when they say this one will be different. Our reclamation laws still aren’t strong enough to prevent it.

  6. Don Lee –
    Interesting how they tout the 200 jobs at the Cheesecake Factory as a big deal but can write off jobs like this as not as impact.  Just think these jobs get paid regardless of if you can afford to go out to dinner or not and the Cheesecake Factory depends on someone having a disposable income.  Amazing but the very jobs you write off may make the others viable.  Money paid to employees will stay where the employees spend it as will services provided to the site, profits will go to the shareholders just like they do for ALL publicly traded corporations.  I am assuming that you advocate stopping everything that is not a direct reuse in the local area otherwise the rest of your argument does not hold water.
    The studies on the economic benefits were completed by an independent organization working off of grant money.  Historically, none of the infrastructure would exist without mining so the impacts are pretty positive.  There were no reclamation laws before so how do you know the current ones are not “strong enough”.  Just look at San Manuel as an example of current practices, even thought this does not represent the same sort of concurrent reclamation it shows the current thinking.

  7. All new wealth comes from the earth – from agriculture, mining or forestry. All other wealth comes from recycling of those natural resources.
    In the long run I wonder which will be more damaging to the environment – the Rosemont mine or the Town of Green Valley? Which will disturb the most land? Which will use the most groundwater? Which will create more toxic waste? Which is the biggest eyesore? Which will benefit the country the most over the course of time? It would make for an interesting study.

  8. The article by Jonathan DuHamel, “Local Politicians Against Jobs” presented an extremely limited perspective of the proposed Rosemont copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains. In Mr. DuHamel’s simplistic view, anything that provides jobs is good.Anyone who sees the broad negative impacts associated with certain jobs and, thus, opposes the project that would provide the jobs, is bad. In an effort to present a broader picture of the Rosemont proposal, I briefly describe a few of the major impacts below: · Costs to Taxpayers. The Rosemont mine will result in significant costs being borne by taxpayers and residents. These include transportation infrastructure costs and reduction in property values. For example, the mine will not have rail access and is only accessible by truck. As a result, all of the equipment and personnel going in and the ore coming out of the mine will have to be trucked on State Route 83, a narrow, curving, two-lane road, that is a designated scenic highway. Trucks, some carrying toxic chemicals, will travel the road about every 15 minutes, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Considerable work, at tax payers expense, would have to be done on this road to accommodate the additional truck traffic created by the mine. · Economic Impacts. The economies of the nearby communities (Sonoita, Patagonia, Elgin, etc.) are driven by a combination of ranching, outdoor recreation and tourism, and individuals who have retired to the region. The mine’s effect on these small towns would be dramatic and negative. Any modest benefit of the mine will be greatly overshadowed by the loss of revenues from reductions in recreation and tourism revenues. These two industries alone generated an estimated $2.95 billion in southern Arizona in 2006 – significantly more than the potential economic contribution of the mine. Even by Augusta’s inflated estimate of jobs created, the potential and real negative impacts outweigh any modest benefit coming from the mine. Augusta estimates an annual payroll of about $14 million. This estimate does not take into account the fact that many of these jobs will be filled by non-residents and most of Rosemont’s profits will go to Augusta’s Canadian owners and other international investors. And, where will the copper go? Primarily to China and other Asian countries. · Water Quanity. The mine will use somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 acre-feet per year or about the amount consumed by 32,000 individuals. Augusta’s plan is to pump ground water from the west side of the mountains, pipe it over the mountains, and use it wash their ore rocks on the east side of the mountain. This water will come from a groundwater basin where the water table is already depleted. · Water Quality. The mine is located in the headwaters of Cienega Creek and Davidson Canyon, both streams with perennial flow that Pima County has spent much effort and tax money to protect. The Rosemont pit, over a mile wide and a half mile deep, will be larger than the Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana, a closed copper mine that became the nation’s No. 1 superfund site. The “pit lake” in the Berkeley pit became a highly toxic chemical stew that threatened surrounding communities and ecosystems. The Rosemont pit has the potential to create an environmental disaster on a similar scale by leaking into Davidson Canyon, Cienega Creek, and ultimately the Tucson water table. We also want to point out that virtually all jurisdictions in this part of Arizona have passed resolutions opposing the mine: Pima County, Santa Cruz County, the City of Tucson, the towns of Marana, Oro Valley, Sahuarita, and Patagonia as well as the Green Valley Community Coordinating Council and the Tohono O’odham Nation. Thus, rather than limiting the discussion only to “jobs,” we suggest that it is crucial to consider, as our local community leaders have done, all the negative impacts in association with the mining proposal. Gayle Hartmann, presidentSave the Scenic Santa Ritaswww.scenicsantaritas.org

    1. Hi Gayle,

      A Gayle points out, she is president of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, so she has a particular limited perspective.

      The real point of this blog is not to defend Rosemont, but to point out the rich mineral potential of the area and the foolishness of legislation that would curtail future use of that resource.
      You can see Rosemont’s side here: http://www.rosemontcopper.com/

  9. Nancy you knew the mines were next to you when you moved here from Silver.  Why didn’t you choose to move to another location (the 99% of the U.S. without mines next door)???

    And you’re off base about mining pay.  An 18 year-old off the street can make $15 an hour.  Someone with experience can get paid in the mid-twenties…  How much do you think someone at a call center or cheesecake factory makes?  If you friend made that much in 1982 for driving, they must have had many years under their belt before they were at that pay grade…  That was great money back then!  I know many miners who make in the $100k/year and I have many friends who work in the mines.

    Great analysis Jonathan (as always)!!  Those who dislike how the U.S. miners produce our metals in the safest, most environmentally responsible manner possible, have obviously have never been to the 3rd world where the balance of our needed resources are sourced.  Until they change their lifestyle, the demand for the metals will be there.  And every pound of copper not mined in the USA has a greater burden on the environment/humanity than a pound mined here.  But people here are more concerned about a pretty view, than true impacts to the environment and human rights.

  10. A common tactic employed by those who oppose the Rosemont copper project employs the manipulation of our natural fear of the unknown as a tool to sway public opinion. This psychological approach is accomplished through flooding the common sources of information available to the public with false, distorted, misleading and contradictory information, making it virtually impossible for the average citizen to evaluate and understand the numerous, complex scientific and technical issues involved in developing, operating and reclaiming a large copper mining operation.

    Gayle Hartman’s statement is a classic example of this tactic as it contains very little factual information that has not been distorted to support her views.

    Despite what some would want the public to believe, virtually every major decision Augusta Resource has made with respect to this project since its purchase of the property in 2005, has been designed to responsibly deal with the environmental and social impacts this project will have on our community. From its small compact size to its use of proven, modern, technological innovations and mining practices, Rosemont Copper will minimize water usage, conserve our natural resources, protect and enhance wildlife habitat and preserve the quality of our environment with an ultimate goal of returning the land to productive use once mining has been completed. Scientific and technical data contained in numerous studies clearly show these goals to be achievable. These reports have been published and are presently available for examination by the anyone who wishes to learn more about this proposal.
    Large mining operations like the proposed Rosemont copper project are capable of injecting tremendous amounts of capital into local communities, benefitting their citizens, governments, school districts and community projects. They also contribute to local economies through the direct and indirect creation of thousands of jobs. Unlike federal economic stimulus programs that consume our nation’s existing wealth at the expense of increasing our national debt, large mining projects represent exactly the type of economic stimulus program our nation needs, because they create the new wealth required for economic growth at no cost to the American taxpayer.
    During the depths of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. In making this proclamation during his inaugural address on March 4, 1933, he was warning the American people that fear only paralyzes our efforts to advance our society. At great expense and sacrifice, Americans have overcome their fears, creating a modern society that is the envy of the world. Our community is now confronted with a similar challenge. Do we surrender to our fears and accept the status quo or do we move forward and responsibly use southeastern Arizona’s mineral resources to help restore our nation’s weak economy?

  11. The larger government gets, the more it drags down the economy. The only form of government spending that grows the economy is purchases of manufactured goods. It was only massive expenditures on armaments, and agressive marketing of munitions by the Soviet Union that kept it going as long as it did. Without the prop of extensive defense spending, the Soviet economy evaporated. As much as todays left reveres the old Soviet Union, there is a shunning of government purchases of manufactured goods, unless it is imported. Almost as if they are bought off or blackmailed.

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