The series Copper at the Crossroads takes a closer look at copper mining in Arizona. In part one, "The Miracle Metal," Arizona Public Media reporter Mark Duggan examined the history of copper mining in the state. In part two, "To Dig or Not to Dig," we hear from both sides in the debate over the open-pit copper mine that Rosemont Copper wants to build near Tucson.

Hear part two of the series:

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Rosemont Copper proposes to construct the mine at the base of the Helvetia Mountains, a part of the Santa Rita Mountain range. The company purchased mining claims and property in the area several years ago. Soon after, they released a formal plan of mine operations and began seeking permits. The one they want from the Coronado National Forest is to use adjacent forest land to store tailings piles, or waste rock.


Forest service officials sought public comment on the plan, so they held a series of meetings over the past few months to record citizen sentiment. The final meeting is scheduled for Saturday January 14 from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm at Sahuarita High School. A large crowd is expected to show up in support and opposition to the mine. The meeting agenda includes room for public comments.

Rod Pace, President of Rosemont Copper, says his company's mine will create jobs and be a model for high-technology mining. But Don Byron and Wade Bunting, residents of the area around where the mine will be built, say the net creation of jobs will be nil. Sarah Barchas, who owns a ranch near the mine site, worries about health problems from micro-fine tailings dust traveling with the area's strong winds.

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Photo: Mark Duggan

Site of the proposed open pit for the Rosemont mine. This view is looking west-southwest toward the crest of the Helvetia Mountains. The pit would be approximately 3,000 ft. deep and over a mile wide. This image was taken about 5 miles west of Highway 83.


Next in the series Copper at the Crossroads, we'll meet a man who spent more than 25 years working underground at the San Manuel Mine.

More resources:

There are many arguments for and against the Rosemont Mine - far too many to explore in a radio series. But you can learn more for yourself by listening to the complete interviews Arizona Public Media did with people on both sides.

Sarah Barchas, Don Byron, Wade Bunting and Jimmy Pepper live in the Sonoita area and oppose the mine. We recorded them at Barchas' ranch house in late 2010:

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Rod Pace is the President of Rosemont Copper. We recorded him at the Arizona Public Media studios in the spring of 2011:

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