A large number of residents attended the council meeting on July 24 in a show of support for mining.

At the Town Council’s meeting on July 10, Patagonia resident Carolyn Shafer informed the Council that Wildcat Silver had listed the Town of Patagonia on its website, as one of “Our Communities,” implying that it had received financial support from Wildcat. She said that she was not aware of any money having been accepted from the mining company by the Town of Patagonia and asked that the council tell Wildcat to remove the town from its website.

Charles Montoy responded that several town organizations, such as the fire department and the school district, had received donations from Wildcat. Then he mentioned that Wildcat had recently paid a bill from Brent Bowdon for work he did to repair a break in the town reservoir. Montoy’s comment led to questions about whether the town should accept money from Wildcat, and whether it might have already indirectly received financial assistance from the company.

Shafer noted that the Town of Patagonia’s General Plan includes several statements that reflect its opposition to the introduction of mining. She asked that her request to remove the Town of Patagonia from Wildcat’s website be added as an agenda item at the Town Council’s next meeting to allow for further discussion. Shafer says that she had perceived her request as a straightforward response to what appeared to be false advertising, but the issue sparked a strong reaction from both sides of the mining question.

In the weeks that followed that meeting, some people in the community voiced their agreement with Shafer’s argument that the town should not be represented as a supporter of Wildcat on its website. Others, who see Wildcat’s plan to mine here as a much-needed boost to the town’s economy, rallied around Wildcat, arguing that the town should not stand on principle when it needs the financial help that Wildcat is willing to provide.

Some members of the community who have lived in Patagonia all their lives see the arguments against mining as a campaign by newcomers who can’t appreciate the realities of Patagonia’s high unemployment rate—a perspective that serves to divide the issue along socio-economic lines.

Shafer, who is a board member of Patagonia Area Regional Alliance (PARA), realized that the inclusion of her request on the agenda for the Town Council’s upcoming meeting was likely to create an arena for argument and to heighten the division within the community. So, the day before the meeting was scheduled, she asked that the agenda item be removed.

Because PARA had received inquiries from many residents who planned to show support of Shafer’s request by attending the next council meeting, it sent out an email to its supporters, advising them that it had decided to pull such discussion from the agenda because of the “divisive feelings it has stirred up within the community.” The email noted PARA’s concern that because of the strong sentiment on both sides of the mining issue, “the town council meeting had serious potential to get out of hand and off topic without any productive discussion.”

Will Stack

Many people in town who support the mines were not aware that Shafer’s item had been taken off the agenda, and the council meeting on June 24 was filled to capacity. At the call to public, four people spoke, including Brent Bowdon, who asked that the community stop arguing and come together. Amanda Montenez and Lisa Filagenzi expressed their frustration with all the negative talk around town, and urged the community to “stop all the bickering.” Will Stack asked that the community “embrace the mine,” and the economic benefits it offered.

Carolyn Shafer spoke last, agreeing with the other speakers as to the need to work together as a community. She then added that she was “passionate about protecting our water, our air, our land for our children, their children, and all future generations.”

Patagonia’s current Town Plan, which describes itself as a “citizen-driven plan” that “articulates the community’s agreed upon vision and overall goals”, declares as one of its objectives its intent “to closely study and reject mining (resource extraction) in the Patagonia area.” It adds that “the clear majority of planning participants was passionately opposed to the development of new mining activity in Patagonia….” Clearly there are some residents in the community who would argue that the Town Plan does not reflect their wishes.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Vice-Mayor Andrea Wood requested that an agenda item be added to the next council meeting, to plan and create a community forum that considers all views as to the impact of mining here. Hopefully such a forum will allow both sides to come to a better understanding, so that the community can work together on this critical issue.