State Capitol News
4:39 pm
Thu August 4, 2011

Brewer Throws Support Behind Canadian Firm to Mine Copper in Florence

Phoenix, AZ – Curis Resources is trying to get the necessary local zoning and state and federal permits for what is known as in-situ copper recovery. In essence, acid is injected into the ground where it dissolves the copper compounds. Then the solution is pumped back to the surface where the metal is extracted. The plan is being opposed by owners of some adjacent land who plan to build homes and are concerned about effects on groundwater. Earlier this week the governor attended a closed-door meeting in Florence with company officials -- a meeting not disclosed on her official schedule -- in what Curis officials described as a rally to support the project. Gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said that does not indicate backing.

(She was there to learn as much as possible about the project and meet with company officials and community leaders. Now, the governor is intrigued by the potential for hundreds of quality jobs in the Florence and Pinal County area. But that's the reason she went.)

But that's not what she told those in attendance. A public records request by Arizona Public Radio turned up the governor's prepared comments. She said -- quote -- I'm grateful for the opportunity to stand together with you tonight in support of such a wonderful economic development opportunity. And Brewer said -- quoting again -- I hope that we'll be able to see this through. Benson said his boss' personal position is irrelevant.

(Keep in mind that the governor doesn't have an official role here in terms of approval or rejection of the project. Those decisions are going to be made by local officials. Then there's as you know, a host of environmental regulations that have to be received from the state and the feds.)

That does, though, include approval by the state Department of Environmental Quality, an agency headed by a Brewer appointee. Justin Merritt, a senior account manager for an investment group co-founded by Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver, which bought 45-hundred acres adjacent to the site, said he fears the acid will dissolve all sorts of metal into solution that could pollute the water. But Chuck Coughlin, a spokesman for Curis, said the acid is only as strong as vinegar and it is being pumped into the bedrock, well below the aquifer being used for drinking water. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.