In a recent opinion piece (“Biggest threat to town water,” WB, March 5), Mike Stabile, an anti-mining leader, attempts to link the Wildcat Silver project to Patagonia’s water supply problems. Unfortunately this is typical of someone opposed to mining, who often will misuse data to distort the truth and mislead individuals with false claims. Here are some facts that were not presented in Stabile’s opinion piece.
The Town of Patagonia does not have a municipal supply watershed designation by the U.S. Forest Service. That designation exists only in a draft state as part of the Coronado National Forest’s proposed Land Management Plan update. It is unlikely that the Forest Service can make such a designation without following its own rules, which would require a thorough hydrology study as well as a socioeconomic impact study. If approved, this proposed 88.5-square-mile watershed designation will definitely impact all land owners in the area and most notably will harm ranching operations in and around Patagonia.
There is no hydrogeologic data to support the assertion that Harshaw Creek is the headwaters to the Town of Patagonia’s water supply.
Patagonia’s wells and associated hydrogeology are much different than the wells located on the Hermosa project, which is 9 miles away, and, according to an Arizona Department of Water Resources study, there is no connection between the two aquifers. The aquifer at our Wildcat Silver project site occurs at a different elevation (almost 1,000 feet higher), comes from a different source, is robust, and has shown no response to the drought that the wells in Patagonia are currently experiencing.
Wildcat Silver is currently in the process of developing a mine plan that will follow the guidelines as defined by the federal government and administered by the Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management. To that end, we must obtain the necessary scientific information to provide an understanding of the hydrology in the area. Currently, we are seeking the approval of the Forest Service to drill water monitoring wells and complete a thorough hydrology and geotechnical study of the area surrounding the project area.This study will help us understand the area’s hydrology and assist us in developing objectives for water use and conservation in a future mine plan.
Water is a precious commodity appreciated and needed by all. Arizona water law is well steeped with preserving and protecting water rights. I am a native of Arizona and know the importance of water to the region and its inhabitants. I also realize and recognize the role that ranching and mining have played in the development of our state.
Wildcat Silver is a corporate citizen in good standing that has spent millions of dollars to protect and develop mineral rights granted to it by the U.S. government under federal law. We have a vested interest in Santa Cruz County and the State of Arizona and are concerned with the well-being of the Town of Patagonia. We welcome the opportunity to work with Patagonia to integrate and develop a long-term water supply plan, possibly from our own aquifer.
(Lucero is vice president of sustainable development for Wildcat Silver.)