Originally Published: September 12, 2017 6:03 a.m.
Lately I have seen reports in The Daily Courier about mining in the Skull Valley area. Some headlines accompanying these articles could have been misleading.
For example, although the operation will take place in that area of Yavapai County, the effects will not be limited to Skull Valley and Kirkland.
I take a position of resisting and being against mining in the Kirkland-Skull Valley communities because I live and breathe in Prescott.
Arriving in Arizona in 1972 and living here since, I am aware of the position taken by the State of Arizona regarding mining, one which may hold that the strong prevail over the weak, or that man stands above nature. I believe that Barry Goldwater, himself, would not hold such a position today.
I stand concerned about the air pollution offered to our communities by these mining operations, specifically that of particulates smaller than the usually measured PM-10. People who have knowledge and experience in mining effects know of the hazardous nature of these particulates on the human body. Those prepared to make the final decision about our future breath of life in Yavapai County might well be sitting in an office in Phoenix breathing unhealthful air now. If so, I’m sorry for them.
I lived in Yarnell and argued against a proposed mine there in the late ’90s and moved to the Sun City area of Surprise, Arizona, for my health. Sustaining a heart condition and developing asthma while in Sun City, I found myself surrounded by 25-plus sand and gravel mines! The Maricopa County Health Department was reporting cancer clusters around the mining works; three neighbors on our block died of lung cancer.
A crisis for my spouse and me, we joined with citizen activists for clean air. I recall meetings with mine officials where purple-faced citizens dragged their oxygen bottles like groceries behind them. Gasping, they expressed outrage at what the mining industry had done. In one instance, a response from a mining executive indicated gratification that the company was paying him a salary! Then he related, anecdotally, that his 10-year-old daughter was responding well to her asthma “puffer.” Such faith, his, in the pharmaceutical industry! His bovine trust took my own breath away.
Although we joke about alternate facts, the reality of our families breathing in the foul air from disturbing the earth overrides my sense of humor. My wife and I have made life-changing decisions to move away from the destructive pollution caused by mining.
I lack proof to the claim that Prescott has the cleanest air in the nation. The slogan itself leads one to a picture of the Prescott we want, where a gentle breeze meets the clear desert sky. However, I hope elected representatives on the city and county boards bottle some of the air we tout now. Later, we may show our grandchildren how it used to be.
All together now, before we find ourselves arriving too late to experience the thrill: inhale — pause — breathe out.
Joel Joseph Thomas is a citizen of Arizona and has lived in Yavapai County since 1995.