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BLM Approves Skull Valley Mine Despite Opposition from Residents

Brigitte Pleitgen

The Bureau of Land Management has approved a controversial mining project south of Skull Valley. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the agency says it’s addressed environmental and health concerns raised by local residents.

The nearly 90-acre project would mine for pozzolan, a material used in concrete. Eighty trucks are slated to leave the site five days a week and travel through surrounding communities.

BLM field manager Rem Hawes says the agency tested the area thoroughly for erionite, a cancer-causing mineral.

"We did do extra studies and tried to answer all those questions. The types of minerals or airborne carcinogens that are cancer-causing are known to be in the surrounding area, but they were not found in this area," he says. 

Many local residents, however, say the BLM’s tests were inadequate, and erionite, which can cause mesothelioma, may still be in the area.

Brigitte Pleitgen lives next to the site.

"We submitted our concerns and they haven’t addressed any of them. This dust will blow up toward Prescott. It will affect people’s health, it is carcinogenic, and it’ll cause lung cancer. It’s worse than asbestos," she says.

The Prescott City Council and two members of the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors have also expressed concerns. BLM representatives will meet with local officials Tuesday. The mine is expected to open next year.


Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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