Florence residents had no objections regarding a massive mining plan to use a solution to dissolve copper in bedrock close to local water supplies at a meeting this week discussing the potential plan.
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality held a virtual public hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 9, for Florence residents to comment on the potential issuing of the aquifer protection permit to the Florence Copper project. Florence Copper is at 1575 Hunt Highway according to ADEQ.
The permit would allow Florence Copper to use its copper-dissolving solution, which the company contends is similar to vinegar, near aquifer units that harvest the city’s drinking water. The residents at the meeting approve of how environmentally friendly Florence Copper’s on-site copper recovery approach is.
Florence Copper is a subsidiary of Vancouver, British Columbia-based Taseko Mines Ltd.
According to Florence Copper, the facility collects copper inside bedrock by injecting a solution made of 99.5% water and 0.5% sulfuric acid, which dissolves the copper from the bedrock. This process leaves little to no impact on the environment.
“After 25 years of jobs and an economic boost, the land will still there. I found that remarkable and much different than conventional mining,” said Michael Baca, a Florence resident.
Roger Biede, executive director of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, said Florence Copper has been testing the process for the past 18 months while being monitored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, with full support from the Florence chamber.
The testing facility consists of 24 wells, nine recovery wells, four injection wells and 15 groundwater monitoring-related wells, according to Florence Copper.
“Nothing has even come up as a potential problem. It’s respected by miners and scientists all over the world,” Mr. Biede said.
The testing facility is used to gather data to show the mine can maintain hydraulic control of the solution it uses to mine the copper, according to ADEQ Project Manager Maribeth Greenslade.
If the permit is granted, Florence Copper will move into full commercial production. The process will run for 25 years, and Florence Copper expects average 85 million pounds of copper will be harvested annually when fully underway.
The project will open with about 800 jobs in Arizona and will create around $3.4 billion in economic activity, according to Florence Copper.
The last five years of production will be used to clean up and remove the facility, leaving the environment virtually the same prior to the project.
“Florence is a town that needs high-paying jobs. Florence Copper provides just that and with a project that environmentally is top-notch,” said Mr. Baca.
It is currently unknown if or when Florence Copper will be issued the permit, but the company hopes to find out by the end of the year.
Editor's note: Crystal Grassi wrote the article for a 301 class at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.