Column: Lots to consider on issue of Kirkland Mine

Now, about the brouhaha that’s been brewing. The one that’s heavier on the “brew” than the “haha.” It involves the Kirkland Mine project and its feared environmental and health-based detriment focusing mainly on the hauling, by trucks, of pozzolan through the northwest Prescott area. Pozzolan? That’s what is used in cement and concrete manufacturing.

In a front page story in last Thursday’s Daily Courier, reporter Sue Tone provided an overview of the controversial matter, noting that the overseeing Bureau of Land Management received almost 1,000 public comments comprising some 1,400 pages — not including attached documents — in the 78 days leading up to its Sept. 11 closing.

Scads of information on the subject is available on the Kirklandmineforum.org website including information that the mine “would impact a large swath of Yavapai County, including the communities of Prescott, Chino Valley, Paulden, Williamson Valley, Skull Valley, Kirkland, Peeples Valley, Yarnell, Congress and Wickenburg.” Truck traffic would center on “Iron Springs Road, Williamson Valley Road, Outer Loop Road, Highway 89 North and Highway 89 South.”

The mining plan of operation, the information cited, “calls for up to 85 truck trips per day, heading north and south on Iron Springs Road” that would bring about “dangerous conditions for those commuting to jobs and school, and for bicyclists, motorcyclists and drivers enjoying a scenic ride” leading to a predicted “marked increase in accidents and fatalities.” And, ominously, it stated that “material being transported through neighborhoods and past schools and businesses is composed primarily of silica, which is carcinogenic.”

The aforementioned website includes eight letters on the subject that were printed in our Daily Courier during August and September — seven of which voiced opposition to the project as stated and one favoring it. I would encourage readers to call up the website and read them in their entirety, as space constraints will allow only for snippets from the letters including the following:

From Frances K. Thomas, Prescott: “We ignore Skull Valley’s plight at our own peril. The behemoth of an open pit mine in the works there, its heavy boot will stomp over all of us: over the little towns downhill from Skull Valley, and over Prescott and its environs.”

From Denise Bennett, Skull Valley: “The pozzolan deposit the Kirkland Mining Company plans to mine in Skull Valley contains crystalline silica. Crystalline particles are carcinogenic and microscopic. Tiny particles hang in the air, rise high above the ground and move by suspension in the wind. Prescott is 13 miles from Skull Valley as the crow flies. The average wind speed in Skull Valley is over 16 miles per hour.”

As noted, seven of the eight referenced letters printed in the Courier reflect a batting average of .875 in opposition to the mining project, which is great in any league, but I’d like to include a point from one of the other letters that Prescott’s Dave Johnson sent up the flagpole in hopes that the BLM might salute. After noting plans that “the mine is talking about up to 85 trucks a day using Iron Springs and Williamson Valley roads,” which “means each truck goes to Drake and back for a total of 170 truck passes a day” he suggests: “Here’s the kicker: Kirkland Mine has a railroad that runs right in front of their mine, directly into Drake Cement. Doesn’t it make more sense to ship by rail instead of so negatively affecting northwest Prescott?”

Assuming that that’s the case as stated by the letter writer, transporting by rail makes infinitely good sense. So, in the spirit of compromise, I would suggest that the BLM’s approval of the mining operation be contingent on that rail-based alternative. And I’m planning to submit that suggested caveat to the BLM at its go.usa.gov/xn4sh website. Who knows? It can’t hurt and just might help!

Contact the columnist at editorial@prescottaz.com.