We face some big issues here in eastern Santa Cruz County, and it’s more important than ever that we have access to the documents we need in order to make informed decisions. Twice in this past month, however, the PRT and the public have been denied this access.
This issue of the PRT has two articles referencing the pre feasibility report released by South32 mid-January, one by Kat Crockett, who interviewed Pat Risner, President of the Hermosa Project, and the other an opinion piece written by a group of concerned citizens.
The most obvious takeaway from both these articles is not what we have learned about the company’s plans, but what hasn’t been made available. Instead of South32 releasing the report, which, we are told, is thousands of pages long, we have been given merely a 40-page synopsis. “The full report won’t be released,” wrote Melanie Lawson, Communities Manager for South32, in a recent email. “We’re working on a more public-friendly version that can be more easily digestible [sic] by the public and is shorter.” Perhaps it should be left up to the public to decide what we can and cannot “digest.”
In another example of lack of transparency, the PRT has been unable to acquire a copy of a proposed draft agreement between the mining company and the County to give South32 an easement connecting Harshaw Rd. to the proposed Cross Creek Connector.
South32 declined to release the draft agreement, stating that they deferred to the County. After public outcry caused the County Supervisors to remove an executive session to discuss this agreement from their Jan 4 agenda, the PRT asked for a copy of the draft agreement from the County. The County refused, stating confidentiality issues. We were not looking for notes from the executive session, which, of course, never even took place, only the agreement that was to be discussed.
After receiving a letter from the County denying our request, we have asked the state to intervene on our behalf. As the PRT goes to press this month, the state has assured us that they are still looking into this issue.
The lives of residents of eastern Santa Cruz County will be greatly impacted by these discussions being held behind closed doors. It shouldn’t be this difficult to obtain any of this information. South32 and our County officials might consider that providing these documents would be viewed as a much more “public friendly” action than the present course.