Pat Risner says that the Hermosa Project is committed to minimizing risk, noise and dust at the Patagonia Schools. Photo by Marion Vendituoli

Pat Risner, president of the Hermosa Project, addressed the joint Patagonia School Boards on Jan. 15 to discuss potential traffic concerns near school property. 

Eight members of the Elementary and High School Boards, as well as four staff members, were present for the meeting. Safety concerns about increased truck traffic from mining activities had been raised by local environmentalist and author Gary Nabhan in an opinion piece in the December issue of the PRT, which had also been circulated throughout the community. The School board invited both Nabhan and Risner to address the Board, but Nabhan was unable to attend. 

Risner opened his remarks by saying that the Hermosa Project was committed to safety. “If we can’t keep people safe, we will not do it,” he said. He refuted Nabhan’s statement that the mine had chosen a route that passed by the school. “He stated that we have revealed our preferred option bringing trucks by the school. That is not accurate at all,” Risner said. “We have paused, took a step back, and are studying how to move product to market.” 

“We have evaluated up to 13 different routes,” he stated. “Going by the school is not the preferred route.” The mine has a “three-tiered approach” to the school safety issue, he explained. “Our first preference is to eliminate that risk entirely.” If the trucks were to be routed past the school, he suggested that “there is all kinds of technology to eliminate risk.” He restated that “Any level of risk is totally unacceptable,” and said that there would be full transparency about what technology would be utilized on trucks being used by the mine. 

The issue of dust raised by passing and possible increased exposure to Valley fever was also raised. “We can minimize dust,” he said. He added that dust would only be an issue during construction of the potential road, which would be paved. 

The issue of truck noise going by the school was raised, with Risner responding by stating “I am very confident that we can address noise with technology.” He mentioned that the company was looking at electric trucks as an alternative. 

PUHS Board member Jim Cosbey asked if the material shipped by the mine would be going to different ports. Risner answered that there are ports in CA, on the Gulf Coast and in Mexico that are potential destinations, but that they would prefer to use one port. He mentioned Guaymas as one option, but that “none of those decisions have been made.” Patagonia Elementary Board Member Nancy Mccoy asked about the possibility of a light rail system be installed. “A light rail system all the way to the site is unlikely,” Risner answered. 

South32’s pre-feasibility study will be released in April, according to Risner, which should provide some clarity regarding, among other issues, the preferred routes and method of transport for the ore being shipped to market.