The Daily Courier Logo
Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
4:05 AM Wed, Sept. 19th

Prescott Council reaffirms concerns over Kirkland Mine

During a study session Aug. 28, Kirkland Mining Company President Areta Zouvas responds to questions from the Prescott City Council about the company’s proposed mining operations in Skull Valley. (Cindy Barks/Courier)

During a study session Aug. 28, Kirkland Mining Company President Areta Zouvas responds to questions from the Prescott City Council about the company’s proposed mining operations in Skull Valley. (Cindy Barks/Courier)

Concerns that the Prescott City Council raised in July 2017 about heavy truck traffic and dust from the proposed Kirkland Mine will not go away under new members elected later in the year.

In fact, the current council re-emphasized those points Aug. 28 during a study-session discussion about the mining operation.

While council members took no new vote on their position, they did instruct City Clerk Maureen Scott to re-send the earlier letter to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), outlining the city’s concerns on traffic, dust, public health issues, and impacts on the city’s gaining roads.

In addition, the council instructed Scott to include a transcript of its discussion from this past week, during which members emphasized a desire for the Kirkland Mine Company to use trains, when possible, to transport its mined materials.

City Community Outreach Manager John Heiney confirmed Friday, Aug. 31, that the letter had been sent, and the city had received confirmation that the BLM had received it.

Mayor Greg Mengarelli announced at the outset of the Aug. 28 discussion that the July 2017 letter remained the council’s stance.

“As far as this body goes, we consider this to be our position on the Kirkland Mine,” Mengarelli said of the 2017 letter, noting that the majority of the council remains the same. (Three new members — Mengarelli and council members Alexa Scholl and Phil Goode — joined the seven-member council in late 2017.)

Meanwhile, Mengarelli said, the city had continued to receive feedback and questions from the public about the mine, and he said council members opted to ask mining company representatives to provide answers.

City Attorney Jon Paladini agreed that the 2017 letter remained as the council’s position, adding, “If this council were to determine to change or expand, or retract (the position) … it would have to come back to the whole council for a vote or approval at a subsequent meeting.”

With that, Mengarelli told the audience that the council would reserve the time during Tuesday’s study session for information from the mine officials and for questions from the council, and would not take comments from the public.

The presentation featured comments from a number company representatives, including Areta Zouvas, president of the Kirkland Mine Company, and Brad Belt, lead consultant for the mine on marketing, transportation, and operations.

Belt explained that the Skull Valley-area mine would extract pozzolan — a material used in the manufacture of cement. His presentation cited a number of primary uses, such as ready-mixed concrete and manufactured concrete products such as block, roof tile, pavers, and precast pipe.

With an “increasing demand for pozzolans, primarily in the use of concrete and infrastructure-building projects,” Belt said a number of factors make the Kirkland mine location desirable.

“This source … doesn’t only have the properties to perform well, but it happens to be in a great location to access multiple markets (in Arizona, California, and southern Nevada),” Belt said.

Prescott’s concerns have centered mostly on the truck traffic that could be routed onto local streets to transport the material to those markets.

Of three possible routes that Belt outlined, the city was most worried about the one that would route trucks onto Iron Springs Road and Williamson Valley Road toward Highway 89.

As an alternative, council members voiced support for using train routes instead of roads and highways.

Belt responded that the company has “explored rail extensively,” and would likely use trains where possible — especially in shipping the product to California. He added, however, that “on short routes, (rail) can be two or three times the cost of trucking it to users.”

Because no rail option exists directly at the mining site, Belt added: “Ultimately everything that leaves the site will go on a truck.”

After the meeting, he noted that while the mine is located about two miles from the nearest railroad in Kirkland Junction, the facilities there likely would not be adequate to handle the mining activity. “It could be two miles; it could be 18 miles,” he said of the distance to the nearest suitable rail site. “Obviously, the farther you go, it adds to the cost.”

The BLM is accepting public comment through Sept. 4. Comments should be directed to Geologist Shelby Cave at the BLM Hassayampa Field Office, 21605 N. 7th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85027, faxed to 623-580-5580, or emailed to KIRKMPO@blm.gov.

Belt said the company hopes to get the mining operation underway within the first quarter of 2019.