By JB Miller
Published Wednesday, January 12, 2011 9:20 AM CST
Over 50 people met up at the Patagonia Community Center on Jan. 5 in order to discuss a proposed mine that most agree would change the character of the small town.
“I thought it was important for people to know what was going on,” said Patagonia resident Odell Borg, who helped organize the meeting along with a half-dozen other locals who are concerned about the proposed mine that would be located just east of Patagonia along Harshaw Road.
In November, Canadian-based Wildcat Silver Corporation president and CEO Chris Jones held an informational meeting at the Stage Stop Hotel in Patagonia that was attended by approximately 20 people.
Jones said the Hardshell Silver Project would be a combined 600-foot deep, open-pit and underground operation that would cover approximately 107 acres and extract mainly silver and manganese.
He estimated the mine would use 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of water per minute on average, and that much of the water would be recycled. In all, the project would last 27 years from beginning to end and would cost an estimated $300 million.
“We are at least three years from production,” said Jones during the November meeting, adding that plans for the mine are tentative and his company still has a number of hurdles, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. Immediate plans called for bringing in drills in order to take core samples, the results of which would be published sometime this year.
“What I’m trying to do here is to make sure people understand the project,” Jones said during the November meeting, “so that we walk forward knowing what the criticisms are going to be.”
But Borg said the meeting that was by invite only did not reach enough people in the community.
“It was very orchestrated at that point,” Borg said. “I just thought it was important to let the rest of the town know what is going on. And see how they feel about it. That was basically the idea.”
Borg said those that did attend last week’s meeting were “taken aback and disturbed that someone could just come in and sort of takeover.”
“It takes a lot of guts for someone to come in and say we’re going to use most of the water that is available and drive 40 ton trucks through your town all day,” he said.
By the end of the meeting, a lot of people were asking what they could do to have a say in future developments, Borg said.
“At this point we don’t know,” he said. “We’d love to find out a way to at least come up with some suggestions and get people together and find out what our options are.
“Right now we don’t know what our options are,” he continued. “The people living around the Santa Ritas have a lot of experience with that because of the Rosemont Mine – we don’t.”
Borg said those concerned about the Hardshell Mine are going to try contact those people challenging the Rosemont Mine and find out what can they can do.
Wildcat Silver Corporation is part of Augusta Resources companies, which is developing the Rosemont Mine.
“It’s not like an anti-mine thing,” said Borg. “We’re more concerned about our water quality and the environment and the impact the traffic is going to have on the town.”
Meanwhile, Jones said Wildcat Silver Corporation has tentatively planned another meeting for sometime in February.