The highly desirable array of minerals in the mountains surrounding Patagonia have attracted mining interests since the late 1800’s. Most recently, exploration and mining companies have come to the area to explore and devise ways to extract a high-grade deposit of zinc, lead and silver more than 1500 feet underground.
Barksdale International, based out of Vancouver, Canada is presently exploring the dormant Sunnyside property on National Forest Service land, an area that had previously been explored by American Smelting And Refining Company (ASARCO) in the 1970s. This project came to Barksdale’s a en on during a chance conversation on with a retired geologist from ASARCO who had worked in the Patagonia Mountains.
In addition, the work being done by Arizona Mining Inc. (AMI) at the nearby Hermosa project led Barksdale to believe that Sunnyside could possibly have the same valuable deposit.
In August 2017 Barksdale struck a deal with Regal Resources, the owners of the unpatented claims, to begin the process of acquiring Sunnyside. Rick Trotman, the CEO of Arizona Standard and its parent company Barksdale International, said that the Sunnyside project is structured so that Barksdale receives “increasing levels of ownership by advancing the project and de-risking the permitting and exploration phases of the project.”
Trotman, escorted the PRT on an exclusive tour of the National Forest Service land off Flux Canyon where they have submitted a proposal to the United States Forest Service (USFS) to conduct exploratory drilling.
Currently the Sunnyside Exploratory Drilling (SED) project proposal is undergoing an Environmental Assessment (EA) by the USFS. The first public scoping phase of the EA has been completed and now the USFS is directly advising Arizona Standard how to adapt or change the SED proposal. The SED proposal is continually changing as “it is a living document,” said Trotman, and added that the goal is to have the least impact possible on the environment and the community while mitigating any problems before they begin the drilling.
Public comments were accepted by the USFS until Oct 21. 129 comments were submitted online from individuals and organizations. The USFS considers public comments during their analysis of the project and also uses them to help define the scope of their assessment.
There will be another opportunity for the public to comment when the USFS releases its draft decision, potentially some me in the spring of 2020. “In the unlikely event that the USFS concludes that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is needed, we’ll pursue an EIS,” Trotman said. An EIS is a much lengthier examination by the USFS of the project’s environmental impact.
Trotman explained the geological history of the area. 50 to 60 million years ago volcanic activity led to the unique mineralization of the rock. The top layers containing copper attracted the early miners. The deeper layer containing zinc, silver and lead attracted AMI, South32 and Arizona Standard. Zinc is the fourth most widely consumed metal in the world and its demand in the market has been steady for the past 35 years.
At this stage Trotman cannot predict what will happen if the Sunnyside project does and viable deposits during their exploration. They have gathered information from the previous drilling done by ASARCO and from neighboring South32’s Taylor deposit and are pursuing this project with the hopes that they will find something of similar quality and value for the market. An engineering proposal for a future mine will remain unclear until drilling and analysis begins, but Trotman said that the community can be assured that based on the terrain as well as the depth of the deposit there is no op on for an open pit mine.
Many residents of this area have chosen to live here because of its scenic beauty, quietness, dark skies and wildlife. Trotman states that the SED project would not disturb the people living in Flux Canyon because of the distance of the drill pads from the homes. Except for the one time transportation of the drill rigs, traffic on the road will be mainly pickup trucks.
Walking into Humboldt Canyon, near one of the proposed drilling sites for Sunnyside, one could hear the sounds of work coming from the neighboring site owned by South32. There were signs of old mining o the road and in the canyon showing that, though the area is remote, there has already been a lot of human exploration.
The tour highlighted the history of mining in the Patagonia Mountains and the possibility for long term extraction of deposits of minerals coveted by the world market. It is difficult to imagine the impacts to the environment as a result of this activity, but the sounds from South32’s operation made it clear that this quiet valley would change. How dramatically still remains to be seen.