County supervisors seeking environmental analysis of mine

PRESCOTT - The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors, in its Monday, June 1, meeting, faced a standing-room-only crowd, and many of those present were there to ask the board to request that the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) require the owners of a proposed mine hear Skull Valley to do an environmental analysis before work begins.

Under federal law, the Kirkland Mining Company's work site, on BLM land between Kirkland and Skull Valley near Iron Springs Road, is small enough, under five acres or 50,000 tons, that the company would not normally have to do an environmental study.

But Supervisor Rowle Simmons was at a May 14 meeting in Skull Valley with over 100 concerned citizens opposing the operation, which would re-process about 42,000 tons of volcanic tuff materials remaining from the old mine's days as a source for "kitty litter" ingredients.

Hassayampa field office manager for the BLM, Rem Hawes, said, "The stockpile material that was left over is the fine material left over from the kitty litter, and it's about 2.6 acres of that."

A company spokeswoman told The Daily Courier in an earlier interview that the tuff rock has numerous environmentally friendly uses, such as a cement ingredient, soil amendment, water filtration and waste remediation, since it absorbs oil spills and toxins.

Residents are worried that dust, noise and truck traffic would decrease the quality of life of the small town and surrounding area.

"The mere idea of not doing a detailed environmental assessment isn't even in the picture," Simmons said. "We have a number of people who (own homes that) butt right up to this property.

"I'm worried about a precedent being set," Simmons said, "because the applicant has 18 other sites that come in under the (five-acre) threshold category."

The board issued a resolution stating that the situation fell into the Department of the Interior's designation of "extraordinary circumstances" and should be subject to an environmental assessment regardless of its size.

Hawes, said the agency would, in fact, require the environmental assessment.

"To be honest, that's the direction we were going," he said, "but the community heard about what was going on," and Kirkland Mining Company met with some residents, which set into motion the community outcry.

The board approved the resolution 5-0.

That didn't stop several concerned residents from speaking up, however.

Allison Dixon, an 18-year resident, said that one of the risks of having a mining claim is that homes may sprout up near a mine and make the site unsuitable to work.

"There's a place for investing and developing mineral rights on public lands," she said. "To do so in the midst of a neighborhood and destroying a rare riparian habitat in the process is not the place."

Follow Scott Orr on Twitter @AZNewsguy. Reach him at 928-445-3333 ext. 2038, or 928-642-7705.