TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - U.S. forest officials held a public meeting in the historic town of Patagonia Tuesday night to inform people about differing mining companies applying for permits to dig mines in the area.
In addition to Rosemont Copper, at least four other mining companies, including Wildcat Silver out of Nogales, are hoping to start mining in the Patagonia Mountains.
There's a lot of concern from residents who are learning about four different mining projects proposed for this area and that does not even include the Rosemont Copper Mine.
"Our hope is to eventually develop a silver mine about nine miles south of the town of Patagonia," said Greg Lucero, the Vice President of Sustainable Development at Wildcat Silver.
Mine company officials say the mountains surrounding the historic town of Patagonia have been a gold mine for silver.
"We have discovered 330 million ounces of silver in this area," Lucero said.
And they hope to find more if they get all the approvals. On the table right now is a proposal to dig 48 holes on forest land for exploratory purposes. Conservation groups are very concerned.
"The project they're proposing is a huge mine on public and private land," said Sergio Avila with Sky Island Alliance Conservation Group.
"I've heard from people that want us to come and are saying, 'how soon can you come?' We are in a county that is economically distressed," Lucero said. "Santa Cruz county is the poorest of the poor.. high unemployment rate, high poverty rate.. we're looking at 250 jobs with a median salary of about $70,000."
"I believe the jobs they'll bring would take away jobs that are already here.. this community relies on eco-tourism and you can't get eco-tourism in a mine," said Wendy Russell with Patagonia Area Resource Alliance.
Other mining companies have also expressed an interest in drilling copper, zinc, magnesium and potash in the Patagonia Mountains.
All of these are proposals at this time. There is no mining currently taking place in the Patagonia Mountains.