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City promotes letter writing campaign against pozzolan mining on Bill Williams

A pozzolan mine is being considered for operation on the east side of Bill Williams Mountain. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

A pozzolan mine is being considered for operation on the east side of Bill Williams Mountain. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — The city of Williams continues to voice their opposition to potential pozzolan mining on Bill Williams Mountain and is encouraging the community to join the cause.

On Oct. 12, City Manager Tim Pettit penned a letter to the community encouraging them to write their state and federal representatives opposing Drake Cement’s intent to mine 850 acres on the east side of Bill Williams Mountain.

“As you all know, Bill Williams Mountain and Kaibab National Forest are truly a local treasure and this type of mining will leave a huge visual scar on our mountain,” Pettit said. “Pozzolan is a fairly common mineral that can be found elsewhere.”

The city is hoping a letter writing campaign will encourage representatives to step in and stop the mining on the mountain.

In March, residents along Perkinsville Road began to see markers going up in forested areas bordering the rural neighborhoods and determined the markers were placed by Drake Cement and covered approximately 850 acres on the east side of Bill Williams Mountain.

The Drake footprint is roughly two miles ong by one mile wide. It begins on Kaibab National Forest lands just south of the Elk Ridge Ski area and proceeds the south parallel to the Perkinsville Road for two miles.

Despite recent approval for a pozzolan mining operation northeast of Williams near Frenchy Pit, Drake Cement began the exploratory process to find more pozzolan in the Williams area for its cement plant near Paulden, Arizona.

At the June 9 Williams City Council meeting, council members received a signed petition and heard from residents about the potential impacts to their neighborhoods. Council members agreed to draft a letter to state and federal representatives opposing the mining operation.

“The mayor, vice mayor and city council all joined in opposing mining with city limits,” Pettit said in the letter. “It is clear that Drake Cement’s proposed mining operation is not welcomed by the local population or government.”

Pettit said one concern the city has is the environmental impact of an open-pit mine on the forests of Bill Williams Mountain.

“Williams is a city surrounded by the Kaibab National Forest and tourism is vital to its existence,” he said. “A mine will create pollution, noise and industrial traffic, and will severely damage tourism and the day-to-day lives of the local populace and diminish property values. A mining scar on the side of Bill Williams Mountain will greatly tarnish the beauty of the mountain for decades, or even centuries, and negatively impact the local wildlife.”

The Cataract Creek watershed, located within Drake Cement’s claim, is a critical source of clean water to the city of Williams, he said.

“Should a wildfire occur in the area, the risk of flooding is substantial,” Pettit said. “Flooding through or from the mine could potentially contaminate this vital source of water for the community.”

The city hopes that Drake Cement will honor their commitment to social environmental responsibility, as stated on their website.

“We beseech Drake Cement to put responsibility ahead of profits and truly consider the impacts on the environment and the people who live in and around Williams,” the city said. Drake Cement can expect the mine to be wildly unpopular with the local residents, as it would be a threat to their very existence.”

In response, Drake Cement said mining on Bill Williams Mountain would have minimal impact on the community.

“Should Drake move ahead with this project, it absolutely will not create pollution, noise, and industrial traffic, nor will it damage tourism, quality of life, property values, or the quality of water in Williams,” said Drake Cement representative David Chavez in a statement. “Drake Cement has long conducted itself as a socially responsible company. We have no intention of harming Williams, nor will we leave this community and our residents any worse off than the day we began our exploration.”

In terms of visual impacts and removal of trees and ground cover, Drake Cement said the impact would also be minimal.

“In terms of the Perkinsville Road project itself, should it proceed we are looking at a maximum size of about 240 acres developed over 20 to 25 years,” Chavez said. “Keep in mind, please, that the term “open pit” is misleading. While this would be an “open pit” operation, the pit itself would be below ground and surrounded by trees. Thus, the visual impact on the area would be minimal, and – as we have said repeatedly – Drake is prepared to do everything possible to minimize any potential negative impacts.”

To learn more about the Drake Cement project visit drakeus.com/pozzolan-mining-claims-appear-near-bill-williams-mountain/

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