Patagonia mining project controversy brought to meeting - Tucson News Now

Patagonia mining project controversy brought to meeting

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Controversy over a proposed mining project brought dozens of people out to the town council meeting in Patagonia Wednesday night.

Wildcat Silver wants to dig about 48 exploratory holes in the Coronado National Forest, conducting environmental studies. It's a big step to see if a proposed mine would harm the environment.

Town council changed the venue of the meeting to the high school auditorium because they were expecting a big turn out.

It is a beautiful area, popular among hikers, campers and tourists who come out to the peaceful town of Patagonia to enjoy the beauty of nature.

"Yeah it's something beautiful to look at, but this is something that will help the town," said Daniteza Valenzuela, one resident who is for the proposed mine. "There's plenty of mountains out there to hike and look at whatever."

Tonight this is a town bitterly divided: a controversy over jobs versus the environment.

"Is Patagonia hurting for jobs? Yes they are," town council member Gilbert Quiroga said. "You gotta go to Tucson, Sierra Vista. There isn't that much work here."

Wildcat Silver officials expect the proposed mine to bring at least 250 jobs into the area, something half the people in this room enthusiastically support. The exploratory drilling project would mean 48 holes dug up in the Coronado National Forest.

"It's a combination of water monitoring hole, exploration hole, geotechnical hole, or a test pit," said Greg Lucero, vice president of sustainable development with Wildcat Silver.

"Why Patagonia Mountains? This area is mineral rich. It's been mined for centuries here. There's a lot of minerals in this area. That's why mining is here."

"There's a lot of other metals we're looking at right now, we're very high in manganese. We're hoping to become the only manganese producer in the United States. Manganese is used for strengthening steel, aluminum and batteries."

Concerned residents worry the testing itself could have a negative impact on the environment, not to mention the mining. They look at other similar projects in similar small towns.

"If you go up to Morenci or other places where it's been going on for years, it's amazing how much land has been eaten; whole town is virtually disappeared," said Martin Levowitz, who is against the proposed mine.

"Town council did not take any action on item on council member proposed forum to study the issue."

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