Photo by Glen Goodwin A historic night view of the Hermosa Project captured by the late Glen Goodwin.

On May 30, the Coronado National Forest (CNF) announced approval for two exploratory drilling projects in the Patagonia Mountains.

Arizona Standard’s Sunnyside Exploration Drilling Project has about 5,200 acres, covering Humboldt Canyon and a central ridge section of the mountains. Access involves two routes off Harshaw Road, north and south of the Hermosa Project, and use of the historic Flux Canyon Road. 7.8 miles of access roads and 30 drill pads were proposed. With no more than two drill rigs active at one time, the project will take about seven years. Maximum depth is 6,500 feet.

Arizona Minerals’ Flux Mine Exploratory Project, under South32, has about 1/5 the number of drill pads and about 5% of the roadway construction of the Sunnyside project. It sits on the ridge between Flux Canyon and Alum Gulch, over the former Flux Mine site. Six drill pads are proposed, with a total of 1,940 feet of  Temporary Access Roads. Projected duration is 7-12 months, and Flux Canyon Road would be used for access. Core hole depth is approximately 1,500 feet, with 18,000 feet of drilling estimated.

For both projects, the creation and use of unpatented claims is generated by the 1872 General Mining Law. For both projects, drilling will occur 24/7, and for the pads and access roads, there is mention of reclamation and remediation processes afterwards. For public comments for this process, begun in 2019, the Forest Service maintains an online “reading room.” The Sunnyside Project had 175 comments, and the Flux Project had 18.   

Among the Sunnyside comments, approval came, for example, from The Southern Arizona Business Coalition and the Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce. 

Questions about impacts and other levels of resistance came from an array of local and national non-governmental organizations. Included were Friends of Sonoita Creek, Borderlands Restoration Network, Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, Center for Biological Diversity, Sky Island Alliance, Defenders of Wildlife, Patagonia Area Resource Alliance, AZ Mining Reform Coalition, Tucson Audubon Society, Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, Town of Patagonia, Earthworks, and Defenders of Wildlife.