Large mines use large volumes of water. Really large volumes. That's a pressing issue in Arizona, where the state is experiencing severe to extreme drought conditions across much of its landscape.
A recent letter by University of Arizona Regents Professor Elizabeth Bernays and over a hundred other University Professors and scientists expresses concern over the potential impacts of water consumption and contamination from proposed mining activities on communities and ecosystems in southeast Arizona.
The letter highlights the proposed Rosemont copper mine in the Santa Rita mountains near Tucson, Arizona (see map), which has been permitted by the Arizona Department of Water Resources to pump up to 6,000 acres feet of water per year – over a trillion gallons.
The environmental review of the proposed Rosemont mine also highlights the likely effects to wildlife from the loss of habitat from the mine footprint and dewatering of springs, streams and riparian areas. This is important because the Arizona Game and Fish Department has identified the proposed mine area as being part of a critical wildlife movement corridor. According to the Department, all of the canyons and riparian areas within the mine area may provide significant movement corridors for blackbear, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, mule deer, white-tailed deer and collared peccary.
According to the EIS, The proposed mine plan may result in a permanent loss or framentation of approximately 6,000 acres of wildlife habitat from the mine footprint, leading to a loss of movement corridors and gene flow – thus, eventually the overall biological diversity of the area – for numerous species.
The Forest Service is currently reviewing public comment on the proposed Rosemont mine, but a date for a final decision has not been set. In the meantime, numerous other mining claims have been staked in the region.