South32 presented a project update and route study for mine traffic between the Hermosa Mine and Route 82 north of Patagonia to residents of the Red Rock area on August 4. Representatives of the mining project gave a power point presentation showing a proposed route, that they are calling the Cross Creek Connector, which would link Harshaw Road, just outside the Patagonia Town limits, to Route 82 at Cross Creek Road north of town. Most of the road would go through undeveloped, open land.
South32 has purchased 15 parcels of contiguous land on which to build the new road, for a total of 366 acres, according to a map constructed by Patagonia resident Robert Gay. The company proposes to build three bridges along the connector, across Sonoita Creek, Harshaw Creek and at Red Rock Canyon. Engineering and design for the road would take one year. Ground clearing would not begin until mid-2021, according to South32’s power point.
Ore trucks would proceed north on Hwy 82 to Sonoita, then north on Hwy 83 to the Port of Tucson. South32 expects that the ore would then be sent by rail to the port of Guymas in Mexico or to the ports on the West coast or Gulf coast for shipping.
“The Cross Creek Connector option honors the community’s preference to keep the route outside the town of Patagonia limits, avoids school traffic and pedestrian risks in Patagonia,” wrote Melanie Lawson, communities manager for South32. “This option also minimizes land disturbances and potential impacts on the Coronado National Forest land and potential critical habitat for wildlife compared to the other options considered. We have undertaken extensive studies on the different options available and impacts to communities and neighbors along all of the potential routes was a key consideration.”
There is opposition to this route, however. Many Sonoita and Elgin residents, including Board of Supervisor candidate Donna Federici, are alarmed at the increased traffic between Sonoita and Tucson, fearing that it will impact the small businesses of the area that depend on tourism.
PARA, the local group that opposes mining in the Patagonia Mountains, has also spoken out against the proposed route. “PARA is opposed to this route because this is a radical transformation of rural residential property and we should all be concerned about the ability of a corporation to use/misuse existing laws,” Said PARA Board member Carolyn Shafer. “PARA is actively pursuing all legal actions and political options and will be working to educate the public about this developing story.”
The October print edition of the PRT will have more detailed coverage of the proposed Cross Creek Connector, as well as community response to the plan.