The Aug. 28 issue of Nogales International featured a guest opinion by Donna Federici regarding South32’s approach to engaging the communities of Patagonia and Santa Cruz County (“South32 shows lack of transparency”).

Our Hermosa Project, near the town of Patagonia, is currently conducting a prefeasibility study of a zinc-lead-silver deposit in the area and the potential for developing an operating mine at the site.

Wherever South32 operates in the world, we value working with local communities, listening to their views and responding to any concerns. We truly believe that our work must benefit the communities in which we operate. I bring that same commitment to Santa Cruz County and the town of Patagonia in relation to the Hermosa Project.

As Federici pointed out, we have recently begun engaging communities local to our Hermosa Project site regarding a proposed road that would connect Harshaw Road to State Route 82. This was the next step in a process which commenced 12 months ago, when we gave presentations to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors and the Patagonia Town Council at their public meetings about a route study we would undertake to evaluate the different options for entry/exit roads to the Hermosa Project.

Following these meetings, we shared information on the planned route study in a community open house, solicited community input on the routes and met with neighbors along the routes that were under consideration to hear their views first-hand. At that time, we committed to share the outcome of the route study once it was completed.

We are now in a position to share more information about the proposed road and last month we engaged our Cross Creek neighbors so those who are most impacted would hear the results from us first, honoring the commitment we made last year. We are planning further engagements with the broader community in the next month and beyond, and we hope to conduct more meetings in person if the COVID-19 situation in Arizona continues to improve. We will share details of these meetings with the communities in the coming weeks.

The route study forms part of the broader prefeasibility study at the Hermosa Project, which is due to conclude at the end of this year. We’re still doing the analysis on topics like the potential volume of traffic on SR82/83 but, once the studies are complete, we will engage communities in the broader Eastern Santa Cruz County and provide more information.

Similarly, outcomes from the next phase of study work, which is due to commence early next year, would also be shared well in advance of any potential mine construction.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we engage with communities in recent months, with video meetings instead of in-person engagements, we are no less committed to talking to local community members, listening to their interests and concerns and looking at ways we can minimize our impact.

Community consultation is foundational to how South32 develops its projects and operates its mines. At the Hermosa Project, we will continue to proactively engage with all stakeholders early and often, as we believe its good business practice.

If you have additional questions or concerns, please reach out to us directly at hermosacommunity@south32.net.

(Risner is president of South32’s Hermosa Project.)

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