WASHINGTON — Florence Copper officials could break ground on a $24 million “in-situ” copper mining facility by December, after an administrative appeals board last week turned down objections to the project from the Town of Florence and another opponent.
The ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Appeals Board rejected challenges that the in-situ form of mining — which injects acidic water into copper ore deep underground to draw it out and refine it — could pose a threat to the area’s drinking water.
An attorney for the town said in an email that Florence officials were disappointed with the ruling, which they fear leaves the water supply at risk of pollution, “a condition that is not acceptable to the town.” She said the town is reviewing legal options. But officials with the mining company welcomed the decision, which capped a six-year permitting process.
“Clearly it is our view, and the view of the agencies, that there is no danger,” said Brian Battison, vice president for corporate affairs at Taseko Mining Ltd., a Canadian company that owns Florence Copper. “These agencies are charged with protecting drinking water, that is their priority.”
The mining company said the Florence project could eventually create as many as 800 jobs in the state. After a two-year pilot period, the project is expected to produce about 85 million pounds of copper a year over most of its planned 25-year life, adding $3.4 billion to the state’s economy, according to a 2013 study by Arizona State University.