At South32, we are committed to building strong, honest, and meaningful relationships with those who could be potentially affected by our activities. There’s no such thing as a successful mining project that isn’t rooted in care for its surrounding communities and their values.
I’m personally fortunate to lead on the Hermosa Project, a development option for South32, and this month, I want to encourage community input on the two permit applications we have in play with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. The first one is open for public comment through March 8, and we hope to see the next one at this stage in the near future.
If you attended the South32 October open house in Patagonia or listened to our presentations at the regular meetings of the Patagonia Town Council and Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors this past summer, you’ve already been introduced to the work we’re proposing. But many people still have questions about what these permits would accomplish.
I want to be clear that all of our activities are very tightly regulated, including activities related to wildlife, air, human safety and local water. But these particular permits are primarily concerned with water quality. Specifically, they would address the quality of groundwater we’re proposing to discharge on the surface after we’ve (1) pumped it from our private property and (2) treated it to surface water quality standards that are protective of human health and the environment.
This water needs to be pumped to allow us to safely access and further analyze the mineral resource for which we’ve been granted development rights. And though it would be discharged back into the same watershed from where it was pumped, it needs to be treated first because the natural, existing groundwater doesn’t meet surface water quality standards.
The resource we’re exploring at Hermosa contains minerals that are absolutely essential for the transition to cleaner energy and transportation. Even very high levels of recycling are meeting only a sliver of the demand for these minerals. Think electric cars, batteries built to store renewable energy from solar and wind, and galvanized steel for wind turbines and long-lasting building and transportation infrastructure. While recycling is important, it doesn’t answer the demand for these important metals. In fact, the United States currently can’t meet demand for these applications without overwhelming dependence on imports. The Hermosa Project represents a unique opportunity for domestic production.
So, yes, our proposed pumping and discharge are about getting a closer look at what exists underground at Hermosa. But they also deeply matter for informing the potential development of a mine here.
What also matters is your voice. You can find out more about what’s in the permits and how to participate in the public comment process by visiting azdeq.gov/notices and looking up AZPDES Permit No. AZ0026387, or by visiting south32.net/hermosa/permits.
(Risner is president of South32’s Hermosa Project.)