Where will they get the water?
Resolution Copper is proposing to mine under the old Magma site, but much deeper than Magma dared to go. In fact, their pit will be 5,000 ft. underground. However, the 110,000 tons that they plan to pull out of the pit daily will have to be stacked somewhere—if they stack it 20 stories high it will cover almost 3,000 acres. Where will that be? And where will they get the energy to pull the heavy ore from 5,000 -7,000 ft. up to ground level?
A major consideration is where will they get water for their operations?
While it is true Resolution Copper is picking up cheap incentive CAP excess water while it is available, that water is being recharged in sites far away from the mine site—for future credits. Where will they find the actual water to use? Mining is a heavy water user. A comparable mine is the Freeport-McMoran Sierrita mine and it uses 30,000 acre feet per year. Resolution’s figures for water use fluctuate. Although the water companies in the Florence and Superior regions would certainly like to know, so they can make their future plans.
One of the many favors the Arizona legislators gave agriculture and mining with the 1980 Groundwater Code was to give them all the water they wanted without any consideration for drawdown on the groundwater—even on public wells.
Magma had a production well in the Florence Junction well field that also serves the town of Superior. These wells some 15 miles away could indicate that there was not enough water in the Superior region to sustain their mining operations. That well has not been in use for years, but that could be reopened.
Resolution Copper is arranging to pump water from Shaft Nine and send it over to Queen Creek area to be used on crops. Shockingly, the water is so toxic that, even with treatment, it still has to be mixed with CAP water to bring the quality to a level that the crops can tolerate. Originally, Resolution management planned to dump the billion gallons of toxic water into Queen Creek, but (thankfully) they were stopped by the good guys at Boyce Thompson Arboretum and ADEQ. Now Resolution management claims that water as an asset for their supply, but they are piping it somewhere else—again for credits. Credits are not water.
The bedrock containing the ore is covered with a tuff of welded volcanic ash some 300 to 500 ft. thick. The tuff is riddled with fractures and rifts and pockets that fill with rainwater to sustain the oaks at Oak Flat and the unique vegetation in Devil’s Canyon. Brad Ross, their hydrologist, told me that they did not have to worry about the dewatering of Apache Leap tuff (see report on www.mining-law-reform.info) because Shaft Nine had been dewatered for years with no ill effects. The Shaft Nine is some 30 ft. across, whereas the proposed underground pit, which will have to be dewatered continually, will be one mile across.
Resolution has already put in 66 wells for exploration, monitoring and a couple of supply wells in the vicinity. There are some 50 private exempt wells scattered within a 4 mile radius. What effect will the groundwater pumping have on them? These questions need to be answered in advance. When the well is dry, it will be too late.