Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

April 25, 2012

Halt copper mining water contamination for Gila River O'otham

Protect Gila River Indian lands from water contamination from copper mining, south of Phoenix

By Lori Riddle
Censored News

GILA RIVER INDIAN COMMUNITY, Ariz. -- A threat to my Community, we just won a long battle water rights court battle and now we have to fight to support the protection of it from contaminants. Please help by contacting the agencies at the bottom and tell them to leave the water alone, no In-Situ mining! Your support is greatly appreciated!

Summary of the Curis Copper Mining Project (Florence, Arizona)
- A company is currently trying to obtain permits to mine an area in Florence that has a southern boundary of the Gila River and is just southeast of the Eastern most boundary of the Gila River community.

- This proposed Florence Copper Project is proposing to pump more than 10 billion pounds of toxic sulfuric acid into the ground - at the height of its 20-year operation more than one million pounds a day!!

- The flow of the water, both above and below ground, is from the mine site towards the Gila River community's Eastern boundary.

- The proposal is being fronted by a Canadian-owned mining company Curis Resources, which has never owned or operated a mine of any type in its short history and is merely a penny stock on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

- The type of mining they propose to conduct is called In-Situ mining. There are no commercial In-Situ copper mines anywhere in North America - this would be the first mine of its type.

- The In-Situ process has been used to mine Uranium across North America with disastrous consequences. An Independent study by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) concluded that no In-Situ mine has ever restored groundwater to pre-mining conditions.

- EPA published a report in 1999 resulting from a study and samples on the Florence Copper Project, concluding that in-situ leach mining releases radioactive chemicals into the groundwater.

- Previous mining operator BHP conducted a test pilot project in 1997 for 100 days. Since that time, there have been more than 26 separate exceedances of water quality standards for constituents such as radiochemicals, magnesium, sulfates, total dissolved solids, adjusted gross alpha, and radium. In other words, there is more than a decade of significant evidence showing that this operation contaminated the groundwater.

- On Jan 23, 2012, Curis reported to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), groundwater exceedances on one of their monitoring wells of contaminants such as sulfate, total dissolved solids, and magnesium ranged from three (3) times to twelve (12) times the allowable levels.

- The proposed acidic solution is NOT akin to vinegar, as claimed by Curis. This acidic solution dissolves arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, radiochemicals, and other pollutants into the groundwater. In addition, Curis proposes to re-acidify and re-inject this contaminated solution into the aquifer multiple times.

- Natural Geology of the Site Does Not Prevent the Movement of Water Between Zones - The ore body into which Curis proposes injecting acidic solution is naturally highly fractured which makes the movement of injected acidic solution and groundwater unpredictable and difficult to control.

- After nearly two years of studying this project, the Town of Florence Council rejected Curis' proposed land use change to allow for mining in Dec 2011 by a unanimous 7-0 vote.

- Following the denial of Curis' application, after Curis indicated they would go ahead and just mine on some neighboring land owned by the Arizona State Land Department, the Florence Town Council enacted a subsequent Resolution urging "all federal, state, and county agencies involved in the permitting process for the Florence Copper Project to recognize that approving such a project along the Gila River, in close proximity to populated areas and the vital aquifer is ill-advised... The Mayor and Council further urge agencies to deny any and all permit applications for the Florence Copper Project.

- Opposition to this project is widespread - 8 separate private landowners owning more than 18,000 acres in the surrounding area, two private water utility companies, thousands of local residents, Pulte Homes, and the Town of Florence have all expressed the opposition to the project because of the grave environmental risk.

- Curis indicates the intent to inject more acid in the next several months. If you want to voice your concern to those in the Arizona State Government who will be making that decision shortly, you should immediately contact:

Governor Jan Brewer

Nancy Rumrill
U.S. EPA Region 9

Henry Darwin
Director ADEQ

Maria Baier
Arizona State Land
Department Commissioner

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