In June, Santa Fe Gold sent thousands of glossy brochures to Santa Feans, asking us to support a $2 billion mining project in the Ortiz Mountains that would create a crater more than 1,000 feet deep and tailings five stories high.
The mine would need at least 200 acre-feet a year of water for a minimum of 10 years, heavily impacting our drought-stricken bioregion — particularly near Madrid, an area already affected by past mining. According to the 2010 Mining Task Report, Madrid’s well, drilled in 1984, flows from the Ortiz. It’s dropping 15 feet a year and might have less than 10 years of production left.
Water is only one of many issues. The Turquoise Trail is one of New Mexico’s few National Scenic Byways and heavily reliant on tourism.
Imagine, just south of Madrid, thunderous machinery crushing rock, pollution, dust clouds, trucking, creating a gash across the landscape nearly a mile wide. Recently, the Bureau of Land Management thoroughly considered these issues when it rejected a nearby gravel pit.
Santa Fe Gold tries to make what seems to be a compelling economic argument. Yet, ripping out a mountain’s heart will require massive machinery, electricity and petrol sourced from outside Santa Fe County. Mining jobs are highly specialized. Santa Fe Gold’s four current mining projects employ just 71 people. A letter in the brochure explains that the company is “seeking to implement a local hiring preference.” That does not assure local hiring preference or local jobs. Employment generated by Agua Fria Nursery or Collected Works bookstore might well provide more work than this mine.
Santa Fe Gold is connected to International Goldfields Ltd., an Australian company with operations in Brazil, Australia and West Africa. With multinational mining giants, real wealth is always exported to shareholders. Think of International Goldfields Ltd. every time you hear from Santa Fe Gold.
What’s more, some surface rights of the mining area are owned by a working ranch family since 1965. The land also is of great cultural significance to the neighboring pueblos.
The Santa Fe Botanical Garden’s Ortiz Mountain Educational Preserve and the Galisteo Basin Preserve, adjacent to the mining area, have 285 vertebrate species, including collared lizards, corn snakes, cougar, deer, fox and seven species of bat. Among 80 species of birds are the rock wren, blue grosbeak, Swainson’s hawk and greater roadrunner. Other rich mineral deposits exist around the Ortiz. Approval could set an onerous precedent, transforming this exquisite high desert bioregion into a mining sacrifice zone.
Mining in the Ortiz would be completely contrary to Santa Fe County’s Sustainable Growth Management Plan, which states: “All levels of county decision-making must consider sustainability, conservation of resources, energy and green development policies to ensure that resources are available to sustain future generations.”
This issue is about who we are and what we want our future to be. That is why businesses, nonprofits, environmental organizations and concerned citizens are organizing to oppose the efforts of the Australian mining giant, International Goldfields Ltd. (aka Santa Fe Gold).
To keep informed, like us on Facebook: Stop Santa Fe Gold.
Marc Choyt is President of Reflective Images, a local jewelry company, and director of Fair Jewelry Action. He was an honoree for New Mexico’s Sustainable Leadership Award in 2012.