Tuesday, August 9, 2011
By Tom Purdon, Green Valley News
A recent article by Dave Efnor (Rosemont means more than 400 jobs, Green Valley News, July 31, 2011) extolled the virtues of the job creation numbers if the Rosemont Mine project were to go forward. Mr. Efnor, a mining engineer, claims that the proposed Rosemont employee payroll of 406 could easily be multiplied by 10 times that number, and speculates that it might even be 20 times that number, if the multiplier affect on other jobs in the area were to be counted. While it is true that economists use “multipliers” in deriving job numbers and therefore estimating total economic impact of a given project, these multiples are completely out of line. Most economists use a multiplier of 3 or 4 to no higher than 5.5 at most for “guestimating” mining projects.
While it is likely that initially there could be 500 additional construction jobs for two or three years during the building phase, they will come to an end and the anticipated payroll will be about 406 jobs, assuming that the demand for copper is still high. The article goes on to mention other non-Rosemont jobs like security, Union Pacific railroad jobs and even mentions a mini market at Interstate 10 and scenic Highway 83!
I will acknowledge that Rosemont and their PR/advertising firms have done a good job of spending millions of dollars in the community to try to influence public acceptance of a mine operation in the Coronado National Forest. However, the negative affects of allowing this operation to go forward in the Santa Rita Mountains are considerable and would be permanent. At least three economic studies have pointed out that damage to the ecosystems, air and water quality threats and quality of life in the northern portion of the mountain range would have major negative affects on the area and on tourism in Southern Arizona in general.
Let’s consider a few significant points from these studies. In a study done for the Sonoran Institute in December 2007, J. Marlow, Ph.D., came to the conclusion that the economic benefit of the mine would be overshadowed by the loss of revenues from recreation and tourism. These two industries alone contribute over $3 billion per year to our economy. The Rosemont forecast is for about $9 billion total over the projected 21-year life of the mine. Dr. Marlow concludes that if we lost just one percent if the tourism dollars, it would not be made up by one year’s worth of Rosemont payroll.
In 2010, an independent economic study was conducted by Tom Power, Ph.D., Research Economic Professor, University of Montana. His analysis of mining resource extraction, operations and employment leads to several important conclusions. The economy of Southern Arizona is driven by service sectors, science, technology and the attractive ambience and quality of outdoor living, not by resource extraction or exports. His studies show that the natural landscape amenities are an important part of the Tucson, Green Valley and Sonoita economic base. His conclusions are that these amenities are our future, not copper extraction.
A third study was recently conducted by the Access Fund for a national climbing group and indicates that outdoor recreation is critical to Arizona’s hospitality and tourism economy. Their study pointed out that “human powered” recreation such as climbing, hiking and birding supports and creates more than 86,000 direct jobs and some $5 billion in retail sales in Arizona. This study like the others calls attention to the vital importance of tourism and outdoor recreation.
When we take into consideration the pumping of potable water from our Santa Cruz aquifer to be piped over the mountain, to run a copper mine that will send all of the copper to the orient for processing, potentially leaving us with a toxic waste dump in our Coronado National Forest, we should take a more critical and long term view of the true costs.
While it is understandable that we are in difficult economic times, there are a number of copper mines elsewhere that can and are gearing up their production. We do not need this mine in this place and cannot take a chance of ruining the attractiveness for this part of our forest forever. Yes, it is more than jobs.
Dr. Thomas F. Purdon lives in Green Valley and is on the board of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas and Friends of Madera Canyon.