Captain's Log Starship 1XE, Day 27 in the month of November in the Earth Calendar Year of 2015.
I am on my way home from some very revealing flights in Arizona a vision of the movie Avatar comes into mind. No, it is not the similarity of the jungles of Pandora to Arizona, because what I am flying over is a vista of phantasmagoric island mountain ranges piercing the sky from horizon to horizon. The high desert floor in Pinal County, Arizona is punctuated by extrusive igneous rock formations, jagged cliffs and rugged creek beds. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Avatar is a critically acclaimed 2009 epic science-fiction film with a number of important themes set in a landscape of remarkable beauty.
This area of Arizona is home to some of the largest mining operations on earth, as was Pandora (the planet where Avatar takes place) The spectacular scenic landscapes of Arizona and Pandora are dissimilar, but the similarity in the issues of large-scale resource extraction and industry ownership struck a chord with me..
Our flight today is to address concerns of the proposed Resolution Copper Project, and the crushing and electrowinning operations of the existing Ray Mine. The area where these mines are located is known as the Mineral Creek District, where mining has been going on for nearly 100 years. This lucrative and productive copper mining district is located south and east of Phoenix and consumes the landscape around the small town of Superior.
This I knew, but what I did not know was that these mining companies and operations are almost entirely owned and controlled by foreign entities. Through legislation and alleged back-door deals these mining companies can and have invoked the antiquated mining law of 1872 and 'purchased' public lands for as little as $2.50 - $5.00 per acre. The copper goes overseas, the profits go overseas, and the promise of jobs, jobs, jobs is less than expected.
Then factor in the environmental damage caused to an extremely fragile landscape and you have what I call a bad deal. So, taking over the mining on another planet is not the problem in this real life movie, but that 'foreign invaders' are taking over the mining, minerals and landscapes of our country.
Our most recent flight was to look at the proposed placement of a huge 2400-acre sinkhole and 3400-acre tailings pond for the Resolution mine. This mine is to be built using the latest technologies, which are truly remarkable. Drill 7,000 feet straight down and then across into the ore body itself. This technique has many advantages. The material on top collapses and makes it much easier to collect the ore and is far less expensive than blasting. The downsides however can be huge. Because only 1% of that material is used, there is a need to store 1.6 billion tons of toxic waste in a tailings pile. Also, from an engineering standpoint, the huge void left underground can cause great instability in the nearby area, and in this case the nearby area is the town of Superior. The former mayor of Superior is leading a charge to ensure local citizens are aware of this problem and to point out to the people of the state that not only are we still operating under regulations stemming from 1872, as the mining law from 150 years ago is still the law of the land regarding mining, but that we are not giving due diligence to the permitting and operations of some of the mines.
Everyone lived happily ever after in Avatar (or at least a few of them did), but for the critters and inhabitants of this area in Arizona to live happily ever after, the politicians are going to have to be like the Avatar heroine Neytiri. They need to be aware and concerned and do their due diligence and ultimately address the outdated and obsolete mining law of 1872.
(Special thanks to Tessa Pargiter for her in-depth knowledge of Avatar, having watched it 17 times).