I have traveled all over Arizona and have talked to many people about mining and the mine inspector's role. One opinion I hear from time to time is the belief that mining should be banned in Arizona. I recognize where those who hold this opinion are coming from. I share their desire to ensure our environment and water stay as pristine as possible, and mining does pose threats to these vital resources. However, I would not be sharing this with you (and you would not be reading it) if it weren't for materials mined right here in Arizona.
Mining is the foundation of our modern lives. From the rocks in our road to the copper in your phone, many of these materials are sourced right here in Arizona. Mines employee 12,000 Arizonans, and support hundreds of thousands of additional jobs. In 2016, Arizona mining brought in 4 billion dollars, making it one of our state's largest industries. It is vital that mining continues for the economic benefits it brings to Arizona. Those benefits do not have to come in exchange for environmental protection but instead can happen side by side.
The United States has a law on the books called the Under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977. Under SMCRA, prior to receiving a coal mining permit, operators must present a detailed and comprehensive plan for reclaiming the land after mining has been completed. SMCRA has been used to reclaim land in Northern Arizona that was once open pit coal mining operations. The photo above is of the Kayenta Mine, showing the active part of the mine on the left, and a reclaimed portion of the mine on the right. We do not have similar laws for other types of mines, and this is something our legislature should look into.
One of the best ways to ensure mining is done in as sustainable a way as possible is through regular inspection and regulations. The Mine Inspector cannot do anything on the regulation part of the equation, but mine inspectors do ensure mines are following the laws as they are written. This work is essential to protect Arizona's most vital resources: our people, our land, and our water.
Paid for by Pierce for Mine Inspector, Authorized by William "Bill" Pierce