PATAGONIA, Ariz (KGUN9-TV) - Plans to revive an underground mine south of Patagonia have the promise of mining jobs in conflict with residents who fear the mine will hurt the area's tourist economy.
Arizona Mining is a subsidiary of a Canadian firm. It's exploring an old underground mining site to revive it to mine lead and zinc.
The mining company says its Hermosa project will lead to hundreds of jobs, while opponents fear it will depress jobs that depend on nature tourism.
About fifteen minutes south of Patagonia, workers are busy driving sampling drills deep underground.
Once the samples are inspected and lab checked the records of where they were drilled will define where miners will pull out millions of tons of lead and zinc.
When you talk about mining near Patagonia most people think of the Rosemont Mine. That's very different from the Hermosa project. Rosemont is an open pit mine that will be mining copper. Hermosa is an underground mine to produce lead and zinc and it is underground because the ore they want to get to is so very deep.
Workers need to clean up what a previous company left behind, build the systems to dig out and process the valuable lead and zinc ore and start the actual mining.
Arizona Mining VP Greg Lucero says, “As we start moving forward with development of our process mill then we're going to get into the mechanical stuff so we're going to be looking at welders, electricians, heavy equipment operators, heavy equipment mechanics, a lot of the trades is what we're going to be looking at.
Lucero says they'll probably need about eight hundred workers but mining companies are having a hard time finding the well-trained workers they need. That means high wages for workers who know the jobs, or can train up.
But not everyone is celebrating the prospect of mining jobs.
Patagonia residents like Carolyn Shafer of the Patagonia Area Resource Alliance say mining's a boom or bust business that will hurt the tourist business built on Patagonia's natural beauty.
"We are at the juncture of six different biological zones. We have more rare, threatened or endangered species, both plants and animals than anywhere else in the United States."
Lucero says the plan will meet all environmental rules and work to minimize concerns like heavy truck traffic on area roads. But Shafer still worries about how digging deep into the Earth will affect the world on the surface.