We are fortunate to live in a place as beautiful as New Mexico. The landscape here is unlike any other, and it must be protected.
However, New Mexico is also a poor state. Many of our families are struggling to carve out a decent living, especially in our rural communities. Some are deciding to move to other states to pursue a better quality of life for themselves and their children.
As a state representative, I have an obligation to the people of my district to balance economic and environmental interests. Every day I strive to promote job creation in our communities while vigilantly safeguarding our environment.
The proposed Copper Flat Mine in Sierra County has the potential to create a significant economic boost to New Mexico through job creation and tax revenues. If approved, the mine could create approximately 1,300 direct, indirect and induced jobs. The estimated taxes paid over the construction and life of the mine is roughly $175 million.
Last year, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) held a series of hearings on the mine proposal to evaluate potential environmental impacts and the plan to mitigate them. After hearing testimony from multiple technical experts and reviewing close to 19,000 pages of studies, reports and other documentation, NMED agreed to issue a discharge permit to the mine’s operators, New Mexico Copper Corporation (NMCC).
Next month, on Aug. 13, the state’s Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) will hold a public meeting in Santa Fe to review NMED’s decision. This meeting is being held at the insistence of a few activist environmental groups who oppose copper mining in general. These groups have fought mining operations throughout the Southwest.
I trust NMED, the agency tasked with the duty of preserving the state’s environmental quality, to ensure that every effort is being made to protect our water and other precious natural resources. I am confident that NMED has done that through its permitting process. I am concerned that this upcoming public meeting is nothing more than an attempt to stop the project by increasing costs through needless bureaucratic delays.
Many of the claims put forth by the opposing groups seem to be based on exaggerated hypothetical scenarios. These scare tactics do not serve the best interests of our communities or citizens. NMCC has spent eight years and tens of millions of dollars to comply with the regulations governing copper mining in New Mexico. Re-regulating this project through duplicative hearings and potential legal action harms our state’s ability to create new jobs for New Mexicans.
I value the natural beauty of Sierra County and do not want to see the quality of life here diminished. But I also want more good-paying jobs for residents so they can remain close to the communities that they love. Environmental protection is important, but so is human dignity.
New Mexicans ought to have access to meaningful employment opportunities in their home communities. I encourage the members of the WQCC to base their decision on sound science, available facts and realistic scenarios. If NMCC is found to be in compliance, I believe they should be allowed to proceed without further unnecessary bureaucratic delays.