In June, the Albuquerque Journal published an article revealing plans by Comexico LLC, a subsidiary of New World Cobalt, to mine in the Santa Fe National Forest north of Pecos. Comexico submitted an application to drill exploratory boreholes near the Pecos River, the first steps in plans for a large-scale mining operation in the upper Pecos watershed.
Due to an antiquated bill dating from 1872, foreign companies like Comexico have free and unfettered access to state mining claims on America’s public lands. Senator Udall and Representative Grijalva of Arizona have introduced bills that would allow land managers to weigh other uses of public lands, such as outdoor recreation, and the values of local communities when evaluating mining proposals. The 1872 mining law makes it easy for foreign companies to mine our public lands and leave U.S. taxpayers to pay for cleanup. These bills would help ensure mining companies pay their fair share.
The Pecos River is an important watershed and one of our state’s most popular outdoor tourism destinations. Cold, clean water that originates on national forest lands and flows through Pecos Canyon is a vital resource to New Mexico, especially for downstream communities and landowners. The location where Comexico plans to begin mining is near the site of the old Tererro Mines, which contaminated the Pecos River, killing thousands of fish, and became a Superfund site that cost taxpayers $28 million to clean up.
Trout Unlimited is one of many organizations in New Mexico opposed to any new hardrock mines in the upper Pecos watershed. A large-scale mine on over 4,300 acres of public lands in one of our state’s top outdoor destinations is contrary to the goals of growing New Mexico’s recreation economy and increasing outdoor tourism. The Pecos River and the 223,000-acre Pecos Wilderness draw people from around the world, and any investments in this area should be aimed at increasing jobs and tax revenue provided by small businesses reliant on the region’s pubic lands, trails, waters and wildlife. A large-scale hardrock mining operation in the upper Pecos is incompatible with such efforts.
Harris Klein, of Albuquerque, is president of the Bosque Chapter of Trout Unlimited