Monday, October 28, 2013

New Mine Waste Coming to Jerome, Arizona

The history of mining in Jerome Arizona has a checkered past.  Millions of dollars were earned by the mining companies and some of the towns (at least in Arizona) received a public building or two.  But the destruction of people and the environment carried a horrible toll.  
An open pit with a head frame half hidden behind shrubbery.
 Head frames were used to lower and raise miners from the
 88 miles of below-ground tunnels.
Myths, legends and a few factual stories have survived about the brothels, legendary madams, some of the saloons and epic fist and gun fights.  What is never questioned is why nothing has grown for sixty years on these piles of waste.

Mines in Jerome ceased operation in 1953.  The scale of these
 waste "layers" can be determined by the apparent size of
the 2-story houses at the lower right of the photograph above.
Despite airborne pollution (toxic dust) and ground water toxicity due to 60 years of rainfall percolating through these piles, mining may begin again in West Jerome .

NOTHING has grown on this waste material in 60 years.
If Cornerstone Metals, Inc. indeed comes to Jerome it may well find a mixed reception.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Price Will Provide Solution to Water Resources

I remember the surprise one day when I found that the local Safeway in Cottonwood was selling gallon jugs of water for less than it was being sold in Cleveland, OH (bottled, of course, in New York).

About that time I read Charles Bowden's Killing the Hidden Waters and realized I wasn't least there was one other person thinking as I was.

Water is a diminishing resource and should be taxed or priced as such.

The small town of Clarkdale, Arizona, has restructured its water rates and found that usage dropped by 50%.

Growing population in the state is part of the problem and, candidly, I've thought endlessly for a solution of how one would control population in Arizona.

Part of the problem will have to rest on price or rate structure...not a popular solution these days.

Tax water use to a level that prohibits lush lawns in Phoenix, tax it to a level that prohibits economical establishment of cotton farms in southern parts of the state, tax it to the extent that makes stock/stock tanks uneconomical, tax it so you question flushing the toilet every time you pee.

Charge enough so that makes an 8,000 gallon swimming pool in Phoenix a true luxury
The first year or two I was out here, water wasn't an issue.  I've noticed, increasingly, that one water issue or another is becoming a factor in mining or, less so, the weather. 

Realistically, a water inventory for the state needs to be established and maybe the results will point the way to a solution.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Skies Remain Dangerously Blue

Jerome is a small town . . . its population somewhere under 500 . . . and it's forms of communication with its residents  borders on colloquial.  A sign in the post office asked residents to please conserve water because the overflow from storage tanks was running only intermittently.  When I drove past yesterday the overflow was dry.

Jerome is an old copper mining community that once boasted a population of 15,000.  With a current population of only 400-plus
the town is experiencing the initial indications of a water crisis.
Jerome's water comes from an aquifer beneath Cleopatra Hill, captured in 3 water storage tanks and gravity fed to the town below.  The aquifer is replenished by precipitation.

In the last 6 weeks there has been about 1/8 inch of rain, hardly enough to reach the aquifer let alone replenish it.  As I've said in previous posts, if you want to see what the desert will support, "Just look out your backdoor."  It isn't much, yet the tree planting, car washing, and yard/garden watering go unabated.

This on 3 - 10 inches of rain annually.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly of Water Wars

There ain't much water in the desert, by definition.  What little there is, its use is plagued with confusion and mistrust.  Let's take a look at some of these . . . 

1. The Good: Everyone in Arizona currently has sufficient water to care for yards, cars, and swimming pools.  They may not in the future but, what the hell, the future is uncertain.

2. The Bad: A piece in the Verde Independent recently characterized the relationship between several northern Arizona communities over a decade long study by the U S Geological Survey groundwater model as "evolving", filled with the confusing terms of "collaboration", "acrimony", and the unwillingness of various parties of the Water Advisory Committee to meet in something other than a hostile environment.

3. The Ugly:  Local rancher, Andy Groseta, has created a gravel diversion dam across the Verde River blocking nearly 99% of the river's flow.  Why? Because he can under "first rights" fill his ditch system and because there's a buck to be made.  It's called greed . . . at least in some circles and, in others, called stupid.  The river always wins!
2011 version of Cottonwood Diversion Dam
2013 version of Cottonwood Diversion Dam. Photo: Bill Regner.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Arizona Mine Threatens North America’s Only Jaguar

from Wildlife Promise
0 1/3/2013 // Nic Callero// Clean Water Act, endangered species, endangered species act,Endangered Species Coalition, Global Warming, jaguars, mining, Pacific Northwest, Pebble Mine, pollution, rosemont mine, water pollution,Wildlife, Wildlife Watch

There is only one Jaguar in the entire United States, which explains why it took sportsman Jack Childs five years using ten different motion sensor trail cameras to get a single picture of one of the most powerful cats in the entire world. Jack initially spotted the cat on a hunting trip.

Flickr photo by Jerry Oldenettel.Jaguars are the third largest species of cat after lions and tigers and are the largest species of cat in the western hemisphere. They used to call the western Unites States home, but as human development encroached on their habitat they migrated primarily to the uninhabited deserts of South America. That is until now, as Jack Child’s photo proves that one brave young male Jaguar adorned with black rosettes is back to re-claim his American territory.

The return of this Jaguar to its previous U.S. habitat is somewhat of perfect timing. After years of lawsuits, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently issued a plan to recover the endangered species to its native North American terrain. FWS proposed designating 838,232 acres as critical jaguar habitat—covering four stretches of mountains in southeastern Arizona, a section of the Peloncillo Mountains on the Arizona–New Mexico border, and a tiny piece of New Mexico’s San Luis Mountains.

Despite this critically important step forward there still exists a potentially frightening roadblock to the Jaguar recovery. Not too far from where Jack Childs photo was taken and smack dab in the middle of the recently designated “critical Jaguar habitat” is a pending proposal to develop a large scale copper mine.

Rosemont, the local subsidiary of a Canadian mining corporation, is requesting permits to dig a mile-wide, half-mile deep pit and dump waste rock and tailings on more than 3,000 acres of National Forest land.

In addition to threatening the recovery of the Jaguar other issues with the mine proposal already highlighted by EPA, DEQ and the Forest Service include: Serious impacts to drinking water to local residents, potential violations to Arizona aquifer water quality standards and the mine is expected to damage historic and cultural sites from the massive pits dug to extract the minerals.

Utah mine similar to Rosemont Mine proposed in Arizona- photo EarthworksToday’s industrial-strength mines involve the blasting, excavating, and crushing of thousands of acres of land and the use of huge quantities of toxic chemicals such as cyanide and sulfuric acid. Moreover, hardrock mines are notorious for polluting adjacent streams, wetlands, and groundwater.

In this dry arid environment where water is arguably more precious than any metal, Rosemont Copper is proposing to dump untreated mining waste on 10–15 miles of streams and desert springs.

If you care about clean water and responsible energy development, and if you care about helping the endangered jaguar recover to its native North American range, please speak up today and ask the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to prevent mining companies such as Rosemont Copper from endangering our fish, wildlife, and communities with industrial pollution.

Let’s give this magnificent jaguar a fighting chance!