Developers & Water Utility Fight Copper Mine

     PHOENIX (CN) – An Arizona copper-mining project will likely contaminate area drinking water with radioactive materials, opponents say in federal court.
     Curis Resources is “proposing to develop an in-situ leaching copper mine within a residential area of Florence,” according to the complaint.
     Since the town of Florence refused to give Curis rezoning approval, the company allegedly relocated its proposed mine to a parcel of state trust land.
     The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is primed to grant Curis’ revised application for a temporary permit, according to the complaint.
     The permit will allow to start “injecting billions of pounds of sulfuric acid into the subsurface in close proximity to an aquifer that supplies drinking water wells presently servicing approximately 83,000 people, and that ultimately will supply drinking water to thousands of more residents of a master-planned residential subdivision,” the complaint states.
     Though Curis needs to inject sulfuric acid to dissolve subsurface copper into the aquifer for later capture, opponents say the substance will do more than mobilize the subsurface copper present in the ore body.
     It will also mobilize “dangerous, naturally occurring contaminants such as arsenic and radioactive materials such as uranium and radium,” the complaint says.
     But two real estate developers, SWVP-GTIS MR and Pulte Home, and Johnson Utilities, a water company, have called on a Maricopa County judge to halt the permit with an injunction.
     The permit “will authorize mining activity with a substantial likelihood of contaminating a major source of drinking water with radioactive and otherwise toxic substances, right in the middle of a growing residential area of Florence,” the plaintiffs claim.
     Curis has its eye on a “heavily fractured” formation that already sports “700 to 800 known boreholes drilled through the ore body by a mining company that investigated the site decades ago,” according to the complaint.
     This makes it “inevitable that some portion of the contaminated acid solution will escape through these fractures and holes into the drinking water aquifer,” the opponents claim.
     Johnson Utilities says it operates existing drinking water wells “less than 1.7 miles downgradient of the proposed mine.”
     The plaintiffs are represented by Larry Crown of Jennings, Haug & Cunningham.

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