A wise mentor and great friend who serves in the Legislature shared some valuable insights regarding mining in Arizona by telling a story regarding a recent trip he had taken to Canada. He told me about Vancouver Island, British Columbia, which has a large docking facility that is the outfeed of a mining operation. He explained the mine wasn’t for some exotic or strategic mineral, like copper. It was an aggregate mine. It wouldn’t be the best aggregate in the world, but at least it would be a hard rock that can be used in making roads, government buildings, schools, and hospitals … in California.
“In California, as in many places where people have achieved a level of confidence and economic status, the ability to mine for the minerals is very unpopular. Mining is cloaked in a dark blanket of biased connotations and election-like smears. Political figures empowered to take decisions on permitting have opted to reduce the ability to secure permits to such an extent that now companies go to Canada, Alaska and Mexico to secure aggregate in order to make concrete for California’s infrastructure needs at taxpayer’s expense.” One would assume that is because these materials don’t exist in California, but that is not the case. They absolutely do.
This absurdity is multiplied across the spectrum of natural resource uses in that state, with the expected results. Cost associated with a reduced supply and an increased demand is passed on to the consumer — a hidden activism tax, if you will. Pima County shouldn’t aspire to be like California. Why we would ever accept giving up opportunity, jobs, locally sourced materials or economic activity if the project can be protective of the environment, too? Mining locally is sustainable and responsible.
“Historical” associations with poor mining practices have nothing to do with current legal, procedural, and regulatory requirements. Responsible companies, like Rosemont, have gone above and beyond compliance efforts to move projects forward, and in some cases federal and state agencies have agreed projects should proceed. Arizona mining prides itself in safe, responsible, resource extraction protective of the environment. Miners generally are environmental stewards who enjoy the outdoors and nature more than most.
Assertions regarding the economic impact of mining are generally false and not based on research. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Arizona is second in the U.S. for production of minerals and supplies the nation with 68 percent of our copper, which has been deemed a critical mineral for safety, health, communications, defense and transportation. We are blessed to live in a mineral rich state and benefits from a project such as Rosemont could have an immense impact on the region.
Rosemont will stimulate more than $16 billion in new economic activity in Arizona and generate $350 million in local tax revenues that will be used for local projects and services. More than 500 families that will have someone employed there and the operation will support more than 2,700 indirect jobs. Rosemont will generate more than $4.5 billion in new personal income and wages over the life of the mine. Amazing.
Disallowing mining would be stating that the copper needs of the county, the state, and the world are somehow placing an undue burden upon the citizens, even though your per capita usage of copper is as great, if not greater than, most of the people on earth. Do we really want to outsource our supply of strategic materials? Or shouldn’t we be considering the benefits this project will bring to our state — the Copper State.
Steve Trussell is executive director of the Arizona Mining Association.