Monday, December 07, 2009
Proposed Drilling Protested
By Rene Romo
Journal Southern Bureau
TRUTH or CONSEQUENCES — Apaches consider Monticello Canyon, home to the Ojo Caliente hot springs and the Red Paint Cave, sacred ground, and farmers in the area northwest of this town have similar feelings about their water.
Both groups turned out in droves at a recent public hearing here to oppose a project they say threatens the area: BE Resources' search for bertrandite, from which the company hopes to someday process beryllium.
"It's sacred. The whole area is sacred," said Jeff Houser, chairman of the Oklahoma-based Fort Sill Apache tribe, whose ancestors include Warm Springs Apaches named after Ojo Caliente. Monticello Canyon is known by Warm Springs Apaches as Red Paint Canyon. "It needs to be left alone. It needs to be treated with respect."
BE Resources, led by David Tognoni, last year applied to the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department for an exploratory drilling permit to bore five holes, up to 1,000 feet deep, on the Sullivan Ranch in Monticello Canyon, about 27 miles northwest of TorC.
During the hearing, BE Resources representatives said the deep holes would not affect a shallow aquifer that feeds the nearby hot springs or Alamosa Creek, a stream that flows year-round and is owned by the Monticello Community Ditch Association.
Gregory Miller, a hydrologist with AMEC Earth and Environmental, a consulting firm representing BE Resources, said that, because of the geology of the area, it is "not possible" the five bore holes would harm Alamosa Creek or the hot springs.
But Joshua Cravens, a seed grower, farmer and secretary of the ditch association, said the area's hydrology is not understood with certainty and said Miller was "just guessing."
"A guess is not good enough for our community," Cravens said.
A state-issued exploratory drilling permit would not authorize mining, but it will enable BE Resources to determine if a mining project is worth pursuing. Beryllium, which is derived from bertrandite, is lightweight and rigid and used in components of aircraft, spacecraft, heat shields and microwave ovens.
AMEC project manager Vickie Maranville said she understands some Apaches have strong emotions among the project. "It is not our intent to harm anything that is sacred," Maranville said, "But it is private property. ... It is a difficult one."
The public comment period on the project remains open through Dec. 15.