South32 investing in protecting environment while mining for zinc, maganese

South32 investing in protecting environment while mining for zinc, maganese

TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) – South32 is investing more than $2 billion in the Southern Arizona Hermosa Project in the Patagonia Mountains, about 85 miles south of Tucson.

13 News got a better look at what that could mean for the mine on Thursday, April 25.

There is a water treatment plant that can filter 4,500 gallons a minute.

The mine is under construction and South32 is hoping to get zinc and manganese out of the earth.

The company said it is working on wells and two shafts, and hopes to mine over the next couple of years.

“Those are materials, minerals, commodities that are important for the national security and economic interest of the country,” said Hermosa Project President Pat Risner. “But where we’re very reliant on foreign supply chains.”

South32 said 96% of the battery-grade manganese in the world comes from China, which is why it’s important for a company to mine for it in the U.S.

To mine those minerals, the they to use unique tools with nearby communities in mind.

“Battery electric fleets, working with the local utility to find a pathway to power the mine with renewable energy a goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions,” said Risner. “This mine will be 75 to 90% Less water use intensity than a typical mining operation because of our underground mining method and our dry stack tailings approach that we will take.”

Tailings are the stuff left behind after the minerals are extracted.

About half of the tailings will go back into the ground while the rest will be dried up.

“The tailings will go to a facility called a filtration plant, where they remove the water, most of the water, from the tailings which allows us to recycle and reuse that water which reduces our water intensity,” Risner said.

As for the groundwater, it will be pumped to the treatment plant, filtered, and released into Harshaw Creek.

That’s part of South32′s no-net-loss plan, which is about minimizing the environmental impact on the environment.

“That is trying to first and foremost avoid impacts and then looking to minimize and restore habitat where we’ve done sort of disturbance, and then where we can’t do all three of those things we look at finding ways to offset and that might be for biodiversity projects,” said Maggie Blais, an environmental permitting specialist.

After the tour Thursday, 13 News talked with Robin Lucky from the environmental group Calabasas Alliance.

She claimed South32′s reassurances are not enough.

“My lack of comfort is a fact that the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is going to allow them to self-monitor no matter what,” she said.

Lucky also still has concerns about manganese pollution.

“Manganese is dangerous, this water will be destroyed,” she said. “There will be pollution in the air and what happens with air pollution it all hits the soil. So those kinds of things we can really live without.”

South32 said they plan on spending most of this year working on the two shafts and wells.

Next year, the company plans on working on the above-ground construction.

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