On July 24, the new President of South32 Hermosa Project, Pat Risner, gave a presentation at the Patagonia Town Council meeting, along with his colleagues, Melanie Larson from community relations and Sarah Richman, an environmental and permitting specialist in wildlife management. The presentation included updates from Risner about the current state of the Hermosa Project. They also answered questions from the community members.
This presentation was a response to the Town Council’s request for data on water and wildlife from South32’s exploratory and remediation projects.
Risner shared that the Hermosa project is currently on pause as it will spend this next year on a pre-feasibility study and 2020-2021 to conduct a feasibility study. Risner said that they were not satisfied with the studies provided by Arizona Mining Inc. (AMI). In terms of their expectations of what the next year may reveal he said, “if there even is a mine,” as every aspect of the mine has to be reevaluated, including how to get the ore out.
Richman discussed remediation on the old tailings and working with Westland Resources, a Tucson based engineering and environmental consulting firm. Currently they are setting up a protocol for monitoring wildlife, with public participation, for the summer of 2020. South32 also provided the town with a flash drive that included Westland Resources fieldwork, and other water data including their monitoring wells and will cooperate with similar requests in the future.
Several citizens questioned the intent of recent land purchases in the area. Risner told the audience that no option was finalized, and the purchases were “opportunistic,” with several choices for use, including conservation, infrastructure for mining activities, or a road. Risner said they have no intention to buy the town.
Larson, South32 Community Relations Officer, said they plan to have an open house for the community sometime in the fall.
Ron Pulliam commented that for years they have been unable to study Mexican Spotted Owls because of mining activity and access issues to the site. He requested permission to access the site with Mexican Spotted Owl expert Gary Noon.
Gary Nabhan suggested that South32 cooperate with major biodiversity research and findings by scientific and conservation groups in the area and meet with “the big 7” local organizations. Risner said it could be arranged. It has been reported that South32 is now cooperating to honor both Nabhan’s and Pulliam’s requests made at the town council meeting.