Thursday, January 18, 2007

San Manuel smelter towers come crashing down

For many of us in Arizona copper mining is a symbol of environmental destruction and pollution and the rape of the wilderness. At the same time, mines like the one in San Manuel, northwest of the 9000 foot Catalina mountains that tower over Tucson, created a nice town, lots of jobs with decent pay, and a facet of Arizona culture where people came together and did what people are best at doing- being people, working, sharing peace love and family time, and of course, beer. Lots of beer, I'm sure of that.

The 500 foot twin towers of the San Manuel mine were blown up yesterday January 17 2007, as the mine up there finally was shut down by its Aussie parent company. You can watch the video here at the Arizona Daily Star and see a thousand linear feet of smoke belching industrial equipment hit the dirt. I'd post it to uTube but I don't have Quicktime Pro.

I don't have data on the weight of the pollutants this mine and these towers put into the air. I don't have data on the extent of the mine's effort to clean and scrub the material that went into the air. I do not have data on the toxics that can be found underneath the tailings ponds of the mine.

I can tell you that in the late 70s and early 80s when local miners were on strike the air around Tucson was crystal clear and it looked like a whole different town. I can tell you that as some of the major mines have shut down the air has become clearer and clearer, but in the past 5 or so years more and more filled with auto exhaust. I can tell you that today mining companies continue to do everything they can, here and in northern Mexico, to get at their copper, to leave a wasteland behind, and pay their public relations folks pretty good salaries. I have also heard that precious stones are their real income, while copper is just their gravy, but that is only a rumor.

The venerable Arizona Daily Star published this nostalgic public relations puff-piece, which looks like it could have been written by copper company pr-types, the other day. The piece, which is factual but leaves out lots, also includes some great photos from the Star archives, some of which look like they were shot by Jack Sheaffer, a Star photographer who worked at the Star for around 30 years and whose photos did a nice job of capturing the essence around here somehow.

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