- By MARK COWLING Staff Writer
FLORENCE — Speakers at a virtual public hearing before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Sept. 15 were unanimous in their support of Florence Copper’s in-situ mine off West Hunt Highway.
“Mining represents a substantial component of the economy in Arizona,” Roger Biede, executive director of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, said. “…Florence Copper activities have already had a real impact in the town of Florence” and the area, he said. “We look forward to commercial operations that we hope will amount to even greater economic benefits to the local area.”
The EPA is taking public comments through Sept. 29 before issuing a final decision on a permit, the last one the mine needs to begin full-scale commercial mining.
“We’ve seen nothing but professionalism out of everything they’ve done,” Florence businessman Harold Christ said. “We’re excited that they’re in these last phases of approval and we look forward to what they will bring to the community.”
Rick Grinnell, with the Southern Arizona Business Coalition, said the country needs copper. Even with the maximum production of every mine with pending permits, there would still be a shortage by the year 2035, he said. “This project is safe, it has adhered to all the rules and regulations,” Grinnell said.
William Foster of Florence said Florence Copper supports his nonprofit foundation in its work, including sponsoring events which “give families an opportunity to experience fun, engaging activities that celebrate the history of Florence. And we need that.”
Florence resident Ray Grant, a retired geology professor, said the mine’s test phase was successful, “and the many safeguards they put in place are working. Therefore, I feel that the commercial-scale operation will be safe and should receive a permit.
“We need copper and this is a relatively low-impact method of obtaining it, and Florence can use the boost to its economy,” Grant continued. “Florence Copper has been very active in making contributions to the community. Everybody wins.”
More than 20 other people also spoke, including mine officials and employees, local elected officials, Florence Copper contractors and others. EPA will provide notice of its final permit decision to interested persons who provide an email or postal address, and the notice will also be on the EPA Region 9 website.
The draft permit’s 45-day public comment period concludes Sept. 29. The EPA treats written and oral comments the same in its review process, a spokesman said. Interested persons may submit comments to the EPA, as well as attaching documents, by visiting https://www.regulations.gov/commenton/EPA-R09-OW-2021-0149-0003.
Comments may also be mailed to: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9; Groundwater Protection Section, Mail Code WTR-4-2; 75 Hawthorne St.; San Francisco, CA 94105; Att.: Nancy Rumrill