Community meeting in Skull Valley on Kirkland Mine concerns

Water, dust are No. 1, 2 issues for residents

The public is invited to a community meeting regarding the proposed plan for the Kirkland Mining Company at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 2, at the Skull Valley School, 127 Skull Valley Road.

This meeting is reportedly being organized by Rep. Paul Gosar's office; representatives from the Bureau of Land Management will not be present.

KMC owns property next to the BLM land near Kirkland, and has been testing the marketability for pozzolan, a substitute for fly ash used in cement production.

Some Skull Valley residents have expressed concerns about where 35,000 gallons of water per day will come from, as proposed by the Kirkland Mining Company, and what the impact might be on neighboring wells.

According to the draft plan submitted by the KMC to BLM, which manages the public land on which the mine sits, KMC estimates the mining operation will use about 20,000 to 35,000 gallons of water per day for dust suppression during peak production.

Areta Zouvas, KMC president, said the water would be used for dust abatement on disturbed areas and mine haul roads to reduce fugitive dust.

“This estimate was based on the experience of our geologist and mining engineer with familiarity with similar sized mining operations in Arizona. The exact water usage is unknown; however, we are confident that it would not exceed 35,000 gallons per day,” Zouvas said in a July 26 email.

The upper figure was included in the plan to ensure full analysis by BLM for the environmental review process, but the company continues to refine its estimates. KMC will be hiring a hydrologist to investigate the multiple surrounding aquifer systems, and BLM hydrologists will analyze impacts to aquifers and the recharge areas.

Resident Denise Bennett reports that the majority of Skull Valley residents, like many in central Arizona, have had to put in deeper wells to reach water.

“On my side of the road, most are shallow wells, except for one which is at 200 to 300 feet. The shallow wells are probably in the 80-foot range, Bennett said.

She added that an aquifer supplies the water, which comes from two places. “The old-timers said, ‘You’re going to get your water if there’s snow on those mountains,’ meaning Prescott,” she said, not from monsoon rains, which basically runs off.

Bennett is skeptical that the mine will be able to abate dust on its 26-acre property when it is not operating in the evening and weekends. Water is second on her list of concerns; number one is the potential for hazardous dust at the mine site and along the transportation route.

“It’s not about watering or even showering. It’s about public health and having safe water to drink and air to breathe,” she said. “I’m not anti-mine. I feel like this is not the place for it.”