I'm Right Again Dot Com

                             A new commentary every Wednesday — April 27, 2016

HUDBAY MINERALS, INC. and the question of the century for Tucson, Arizona

    This week, the US Fish and Wildlife Service submitted its final biological opinion on the impact that a proposed copper mine in southern Arizona would have on certain species of wildlife. We have no knowledge of the contents of the opinion, but its ramifications could be great and long lasting for our Town. 

    Unless you're an investor in Hudbay Minerals or live in or near Tucson, Arizona, I'll wager the name in the title means little or nothing to you. If you are involved in government or business in Pima County, Arizona, you may know that Hudbay Minerals, Inc. is a Canadian company with mining operations throughout the Americas. Hudbay has a subsidiary, Rosemont Copper, which for more than ten years has been seeking permission from various governmental entities, chief among them the U.S. Forestry Service, to begin to extract copper ore from a proposed open pit mine in the Santa Rita Range of mountains, 30 miles southeast of Tucson. Hudbay says they will invest $1.2-billion in what they claim will result in the 3rd largest copper mine in the United States.

     The tradeoff for the people of Tucson: A huge, visible scar on a mountain range south of us that might test every plan for remediation.

    Tucson, one if the two major metropolitan centers in the State, is on an economic plateau. Should the U.S. turn isolationist and quit purchasing vast numbers of rockets from Ratheon's major manufacturing plant here, and/or the Pentagon closes the runways of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to new breeds of fighter jets, "For Sale" signs will bloom all over Pima County.

    Therefore, nearly every economic interest is arrayed on Rosemont's side.  Since it has been preparing surveys, making plans and filing papers seeking permission to start digging since 2007, without surmounting a wall of protective regulations—primarily in regard to an exceedingly precious resource, water—Rosemont may be disposed to lawyer its way through the courts. And we all know what can result from that strategy: Proof that the litigant with the most resources usually wins. At the present, Hudbay is dealing with other concerns, as well.

    The New York Times recently ran a front-page story that told of the efforts of a group of indigenous Guatemalans who are tying to sue Hudbay over alleged murder and gang rape at Hudbay's property there. Hudbay insists the problems were caused by a former owner. Last year, investors in Hudbay didn't like the surprise resignation of its CEO, David Garafalo, a hiccup that caused the price of its stock to drop 11 percent. More recently, John McKay, a Member of the Parliament of Canada, called for stricter oversight of mines owned by Canadian mining companies abroad. 

    Meanwhile, on the other side of a fragile barricade, stands a handful of environmentalists. They point to the dust in the air coming from the tailings of other old open pit copper mines west of Route 19. They lament the loss of habitat for at least one lonely jaguar and an ocelot roaming the primitive sky island forest on the crest of the Santa Rita range and they claim that the jobs that would be created by this project would represent less than three-tenths of one percent (0.3%) of total employment in Pima and Santa Cruz counties. 

   We can only hope for the best and prepare for the worst. 

 -Phil Richardson, Observer of the human condition and storyteller. "He goes doddering on into his old age, making a public nuisance of himself." - Joseph L. Menchen


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