It is impossible to separate mining from the history of Arizona. Many of our towns and cities started as mining outposts, and our biggest legends and tall tales are related to mining. Today, mining is still a major part of the state’s economy. Mining brings in $4 billion dollars and directly employs 12,000 people. Hundreds of thousands of Arizonans have jobs connected to mining in some way or another.
Mining in our state is done in a safe, productive manner, for the most part. The majority of mines are operated in a respectful way, protecting both miners and the environment. But, like any major industry, sometimes things don’t go as planned. Mistakes happen. And one of the agencies in charge of stopping those mistakes is in dire need of funding and more staff to ensure the safety of mining in Arizona.
The Arizona Mine Inspector’s role is to help active mines uncover and fix problems before there is an injury, death, or environmental disaster. Additionally, the mine inspector is responsible for securing abandoned mines where often times dangerous metals and chemicals such as: lead, cadmium, arsenic, and even uranium are left exposed, threatening ground and surface water.
Unfortunately, the budget for the mine inspector’s office was drastically cut in the recession. Since 2008, the state has gone from 12 mine inspectors to just four. Four mine inspectors for more than 400 active mines and at least 2,000 abandoned mines, including about 600 abandoned uranium mines. It is impossible for this hardworking team to inspect all of Arizona’s mines at the level required by law. As a result, mines are not being inspected at the level required by law.
As water restrictions loom on the horizon, it is imperative to keep dangerous materials out of water sources. We need to raise our voices loudly about the underfunding of the Mine Inspector’s office and demand the funding necessary to support current inspectors, hire additional inspectors, and ensure our active and abandoned mines are safe. We owe it to those working in mines, those who live around mines, and everyone who uses water in Arizona to ensure this happens.
Paid for by Pierce for Mine Inspector, Authorized by William "Bill" Pierce