The Florence Town Council took the unusual step of issuing a news release in an attempt to justify the spending of “$311,000 each year since 2013” in legal fees and costs to oppose the Florence Copper Project, a now fully permitted copper production test facility that has created up to 80 jobs and invested $28 million in the region so far.
We can understand the Council’s need to justify their spending. What we can’t understand is the false and misleading way they have characterized our project.
The Council’s news release with its inflammatory and false statements seems solely designed to arouse public fear and alarm without any basis in fact. Their conduct is at best regrettable and certainly not something one would expect to encounter from responsible community-minded leadership.
Here are the facts.
Fact: The Town of Florence has spent at least $1.6 million on trial lawyers to discourage an environmentally sound project that will bring millions in taxes and revenues to the area.
None of the current litigation was initiated by Florence Copper. To date, the Town Council has initiated six separate lawsuits against Florence Copper. The Council also sought to condemn the company’s administrative offices and adopt an ordinance banning the storage of sulfuric acid by Florence Copper, all the while exempting local farmers and businesses that do the same thing. The Town was quickly forced to repeal both actions and pay Florence Copper $100,000 for the unnecessary costs it incurred.
Fact: Florence Copper is not and will not put chemicals into the drinking water supply.
The water-based solution contains just .5% sulfuric acid that is released 40 feet into the copper-bearing bedrock. Multiple protections are in place to ensure there is no impact to the drinking water aquifers.
Fact: Florence Copper will use substantially less water than if the property were developed for housing or farming.
Florence Copper will use just 85 acre-feet of water per year (afy) during the operation of its Production Test Facility and 1,778 afy during full commercial production. In contrast, if the Florence Copper property was developed for residential and light industrial use as currently zoned by the Town, water use on the property would increase to 2,637 afy, according to the Arizona Department of Water Resources. If the property was re-employed for agricultural production, annual water use would increase to 4,203 afy based on the property’s historic groundwater rights.
Fact: Both the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) have thoroughly and rigorously examined the science and engineering behind the Florence Copper proposal.
Both agencies have concluded that the project is safe, environmentally sound, and deserving of final permits. Both Florence Copper and ADEQ had numerous technical experts testify about the safety of the proposed in-situ copper recovery. In contrast, the Town was only able to find one out-of-state expert to testify on their behalf, and his testimony made it clear that he did not understand how in-situ copper recovery works.
Fact: Recently, the Town dismissed its two legal challenges of the Underground Injection Control Permit issued by EPA to Florence Copper.
The dismissal in federal court was “with prejudice” meaning the Town cannot bring these lawsuits again. Why? Because the Town was being required to show harm to the Town’s drinking water supply, and it could not do so. Withdrawing their legal challenge had nothing to do with saving public tax dollars and everything to do with their case lacking merit.
Fact: Florence Copper’s small-scale Production Test Facility (PTF) contains just 4 injection wells and 9 recovery wells. These 13 wells are surrounded by 7 observation wells, 2 operational monitoring wells, and 7 supplemental monitoring wells designed to provide daily monitoring of the well field.
The purpose of the PTF is to develop the information needed to confirm the safety of in-situ copper recovery to the regulators, and most importantly the Town’s residents. The responsible thing to do is to allow this carefully designed test to proceed.
Construction of the Florence Copper Project is now underway, and the new in-situ copper recovery facility is on track to produce its first copper cathode before the end of this year.
An initial investment of $28 million has been made, and 80 jobs have been created here in the region. Moving to commercial production will see that investment rise to $200 million and job creation climb close to 800 for Arizona.
We encourage people to get the facts on Florence Copper by calling us to arrange a site tour, 520-374-3984. More facts are available at www.florencecopper.com.