Pima County challenges Canadian mining claims in national forest

Pima County challenges Canadian mining claims in national forest

Pima County is challenging the validity of mining claims staked by a Canadian company in the Coronado National Forest.

In a letter sent to the forest supervisor last week, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said Augusta Resource Corp. of Vancouver might use mining claims on Forest Service land to dump waste rock, rather than for mineral extraction.

For mining claims to be valid, the claimant must show the claim is valuable. That means the mineral can be extracted at a profit after complying with federal, state and local laws.

“In my opinion, this brings up the very obvious question of whether the Forest Service claims are valuable if claimants do not propose to improve them, but instead to use them as a dumping ground,” Huckleberry wrote.

Jamie Sturgess, Augusta’s vice president and project manager, said he hasn’t seen Huckelberry’s letter and couldn’t comment on technical matters.

He said the company wants to develop a mine with limited environmental impact.

“We’re trying to make sure our plan of operations is the best it can be,” he said.

Augusta estimates the mine could produce more than 4 billion pounds of copper, 100 million pounds of molybdenum and 100 million ounces of silver over 20 years. Augusta owns some land in the area, but it needs access to 3,200 acres of Forest Service land to make the mine work.

State and federal authorities have final say on Augusta’s proposed mine. Nevertheless Supervisor Ray Carroll, who represents the area, has urged the Board of Supervisors to pass a resolution opposing it.

The board is scheduled to discuss the issue Jan. 16.

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