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Parks community turns out for informational meeting about mining

Parks residents gather for a meeting Sept. 2 about possible mining in the community. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

Parks residents gather for a meeting Sept. 2 about possible mining in the community. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

PARKS, Ariz. — Nearly 200 community members showed up for a brainstorming/informational meeting Sept. 2 about possible pozzolan mining in the Spring Valley area of Parks.

Drake Cement has recorded and placed new lode and placer claims totaling around 1,068 acres on the Kaibab National Forest near Government Hill in the Spring Valley area of Parks, and a small cluster of claims on approximately 348 acres south of Hardy Hill.

The company in Paulden, Arizona, mines pozzolan as an additive for concrete. It is found in deposits of volcanic tuff, a glassy, igneous rock formed when deposits of volcanic ash compress under pressure over time.

Local residents Brian Hughes and Joe Amadeo organized the meeting in hopes of educating the community about how mineral exploration on public lands is governed by the General Mining Law of 1872, which makes “all valuable mineral deposits” in public lands “free and open to exploration.”

"When I saw the map of the area (mining claims), to say I was stunned and shocked would be an understatement," Amadeo said. "There are survey stakes everywhere."

Amadeo and Hughes urged community members to write letters to their representatives and Drake Cement to stop exploration in the Spring Valley area.

The location of the mining claims in Parks is approximately 8 miles north of Interstate 40. There are two accesses to the property; one is on Forest Road 76, a rough 4x4 road, and the other is Spring Valley Road, the main thoroughfare for the Parks community.

Spring Valley Road is a paved road that cuts through several residential neighborhoods, with many homes directly connecting to the road. There is a school, fire station, campground, restaurant and several other small commercial businesses along the road.

The road has no shoulder, and no center line in some areas, and community members can often be seen bicycling, running and walking on the road.

"Once they can prove that mining is feasible, then the mining claim can proceed," Amadeo said. "They are still years from putting shovels in the ground, but if we don't get in front of it we will have no chance."

Drake Cement was approved for a pozzolan mining operation west of Parks at Frenchy Pit in 2021. Operations are now underway on that 65-acre site that has since been leveled and cleared of all vegetation.

Drake plans to extract about 300,000 to 500,000 tons of pozzolan from the parcel each year. Mining operations are expected to occur nine months out of the year, with the product being transported to the Drake Cement plant in Paulden year-round. The operation has a 20-year life expectancy.

In addition to the Frenchy Pit mine, Drake Cement began looking at Bill Williams Mountain in 2022 for additional mining opportunities. Residents living on the east side of Bill Williams Mountain became alarmed when they began noticing Drake Cement mining claims going up on nearly 1,450 acres of forest lands that border their homes.

Despite facing intense opposition to mining on Bill Williams Mountain, the company submitted an exploration proposal to the U.S. Forest Service in January 2023. The Forest Service held a 45-day public comment period and is now working on an environmental analysis before approving or denying the exploration plan.

Drake Cement has not submitted an application for exploration in Spring Valley, according to Brienne Pettit, public information officer for Kaibab National Forest.

A Drake Cement representative previously stated the company continues to explore potential mining sites in areas in proximity to their Paulden plant. They said they also plan to be fully transparent in the public process.

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