The San Rafael valley is the headwaters for the Santa Cruz River. Any depletion or fouling of this area not only diminishes a jewel of biological diversity in the state, but affects our neighbors in Mexico, as well as multiple thriving communities downstream.

In Patagonia, which falls outside of an AMA, the water level is some 20 feet below surface and extends to some 150 feet. The water adequacy rules state that supply can be drained down to bedrock (or 1,200 ft) in 100 years. At this time, Patagonia region is being threatened by a housing development and 100’s of mining claims including the copper giant Phelps Dodge/Freeport-McMoran. Remember, mining water use is exempt, so the devastation would come long before 100 years. Is it reasonable to exclude the local people to have a hydrological study to ascertain the impact on their water supply by any development or mining operation--and take their "first rights"? 

A presentation to the Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors tells the story well—

TO: Board of Supervisors - Santa Cruz County

FROM: Jon B. Coppa, MD - member of Board of Directors, San Rafael
Valley Association

Gentlemen -

The ultimate threat to the San Rafael Valley has just surfaced. Last week, I was asked by a representative of the mining company BHP Billiton to give him permission to sample my private well water.

The ensuing discussion revealed that BHP was using well water sampling as their first step in "prospecting for porphyry copper deposits in the San Rafael Valley, specifically focused on the San Rafael de la Zanja land grant."

I told him that I would not give him permission to sample my well as I only wanted to see cows and grapevines in the area and not an open pit copper mine disgorging ore laden trucks and dust.

I told him that the San Rafael Valley is the crown jewel of Santa Cruz County, the state of Arizona and Planet Earth. Mr. Peter Robbins of The Little Outfit Ranch polled the ranchers in the Valley and an undeniable majority of them will not grant permission for BHP to test their wells.

What would the San Rafael Valley look like with a large open pit copper mine in its center? You can find the answer in Green Valley. A mine would permanently destroy the unique environmental characteristics of the Valley and disfigure the intense beauty of the area.

The Valley is representative of the finest sustainable cattle grazing country in the United States and we are fortunate to have motivated and responsible ranchers as stewards of this rangeland. This region is world renowned for its number of unique plant and animal species. Bird watchers come here from around the world. For bird hunters, this is the premier area of North America for Mearns' Quail.

Would national newspapers and publications extol the "beauty" of the Green Valley mine and mountain of tailings? Of course not.

Instead, The New York Times of Thursday, January 25, 2007, published an article about our famous author and Patagonia resident, Mr. Jim Harrison. The journalist effectively and honestly captured Mr. Harrison's love of this region which is based upon his passionate focus on the San Rafael Valley, a place he considers "preposterously beautiful"―"This place is so visually overwhelming.” Millions of readers in this country and worldwide would have read the article. It will only enhance and increase everyone's interest in Santa Cruz County.

What would a San Rafael Valley mine do to the Santa Cruz River? Few people realize that the headwaters of the Santa Cruz River are in the northern region of this Valley, the river then flows south into Mexico before heading north to Nogales, Tucson and Marana. This makes the river an international waterway and would result in massive scrutiny for potentially serious and perhaps permanent pollution due to mining activity.

The U. S. Geological Survey is studying the Santa Cruz River Watershed, and from the Project List on their website, they are trying to determine and "understand the various natural controls on water quality in this regional aquifer system. At this point, they do not know all of the "potential sources of toxic metals to surface and ground waters" from the mineralized sites in the watershed, let alone assessing the extent of toxic mineral pollution of a watershed due to mining activity at a specific site. It doesn't take a government study to assess the public reaction to the irreplaceable beauty of Santa Cruz County as expressed by Mr. Jim Harrison.

There is special interest in the Santa Cruz County oak-grasslands by ornithologists and mammalogists who feel that this southern Arizona region of the Madrean Archipelago (northern Sierra Madre Mountain sky- islands) "is renowned for its biodiversity. The area is considered a hotspot of evolution and contains the greatest diversity of mammals in the United States." (John L. Koprowski, Univ. of Arizona) Also, the Peregrine Fund is known worldwide for its projects to restore birds of prey to their original habitats, and a major effort is being made by this organization to reintroduce the Aplomado Falcon to the grasslands of the Mexican and American border states.

There were three confirmed sightings of this falcon species in the San Rafael Valley last summer (Source: Mr. Ross Humphries). There is no falcon prey in or over an open pit mine.

As we have discussed there are numerous overpowering reasons to keep mining out of this Valley.

For this reason, I urge the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors to do everything possible to remove all of the land in Santa Cruz County from further mineral recovery efforts - no further mineral exploration and no further mining.

Thank you very much for your consideration.

Jon B. Coppa, MD
Venado Cola Blanca Vineyard, Inc.

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