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Coconino County Supervisors make stand against pozzolan mining on Bill Williams Mountain

Drake Cement has been approved to mine pozzolan at Frenchy Pit (in photo). The company is now looking to mine on Bill Williams Mountain. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

Drake Cement has been approved to mine pozzolan at Frenchy Pit (in photo). The company is now looking to mine on Bill Williams Mountain. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

WILLIAMS Ariz. — The Coconino County Board of Supervisors is making a stand against proposed pozzolan mining on Bill Williams Mountain.

On April 7, the Board of Supervisors penned a statement in opposition to Drake Cement’s intent to mine pozzolan for their cement operation in Paulden, Arizona. The supervisors also submitted a letter to the US Forest Service in opposition of the exploration phase of the project.

“We recognize that pozzolan mining is an important commodity in today’s cement market and we are not opposed to pozzolan mining in general, however, we oppose mining at this sensitive location,” the supervisors said.

The letter was signed by District 1 Supervisor Patrice Horstman, District 4 Supervisor Judy Begay, District 2 Supervisor Jeronimo Vasquez, District 5 Supervisor Lena Fowler and District 3 Supervisor Matt Ryan.

District 3 includes Bill Williams Mountain and the town of Williams.

“Coconino County is home to the Navajo, Hopi, San Juan Southern Paiute, Havasupai, Kaibab and Hualapai people,” the Supervisors said in the letter. “We are concerned about the potential consequences of mining on this sensitive mountain and unique landscape which is deemed an eligible traditional cultural property, sacred site and traditional use area to several Southwestern tribes.”

The supervisors also noted environmental concerns with the proposed trenching to find pozzolan.

“A riparian area runs through the area where the exploratory trenches are proposed,” they said. “About five species of sensitive plants have the potential to occur in the exploration area. If individuals are not located and protected, they would be harmed during vegetation removal.”

The exploratory proposed trenches also lie within designed critical habitat for the Mexican spotted owl.

“The Endangered Species Act directs that all federal agencies seek to protect listed species,” they said. “…mining and exurban land development (are) activities with the potential to impact Mexican spotted owls.”

Bill Williams Mountains is a key watershed to the city of Williams’ drinking water supply.

“The Cataract Creek watershed, located within Drake Cement’s mining claim, is a critical source of clean water to the city of Williams and its economy,” they said. “There is a significant nexus between forest restoration and improving the health and quality of the watershed.”

The Supervisors noted the impacts on the U.S. Forest Service’s efforts to restore the forest to reduce catastrophic wildfires.

“A 2017 study conducted J.E. Fuller Hydrology and Geomorphology, at the direction of the county’s Flood Control District, concluded that the city of Williams will sustain severe damage from post-wildfire flooding and debris flows if the mountain burns,” they said. “In fact, the study indicated that Bill Williams Mountain is one of the most sensitive areas in the county’s 18,611 square miles to the possibility of post-wildfire flooding with potentially devastating impacts to the city of Williams.”

The Supervisors noted the investment of $6.8 million from Coconino County to help mitigate the threat of wildfire through forest restoration treatments on the mountain that began in 2019.

“Mining in this vulnerable location imperils the proactive investments of local taxpayer dollars to reduce the risk and threatens the viability of future investments,” they said.

In 2025, Coconino County Public Works plans to begin paving and improving Perkinsville Road, which is the only paved access to public lands south of Williams. The road is a vital connection between Coconino County and the rest of the region, serving residents, tourists and federal land management activities.

“With an increased heavy truck volume from an active mine, the 20-year life span will be greatly reduced as the 20-years’ worth of predicted traffic on which the asphalt section is designed will be compressed to an interval much shorter than 20 years,” they said.

The mining activity would also negatively impact those living and visiting the rural area where there is currently very little to no truck traffic and will increase noise pollution and dust adjacent to the road, the Supervisors said.

The county acknowledged how Bill Williams Mountain serves as an important gateway to the Grand Canyon, and is important to the tourism and recreation in Williams.

“Due to these reasons, the county opposes exploration and efforts to mine on Bill Williams Mountain, recognizing instead that there are more appropriate locations in the region for this activity,” they said. “Developing a mine on Bill Williams Mountain, within proximity to the city of Williams, on a mountain that forms part of the iconic landscape of Coconino County, in a watershed that provides critical drinking water to the Williams’ residents, is not the best location.”

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