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For all of her 53 years, Donna Goodale has threaded horses and mules through nearly impassable thickets of scrub oak and manzanita behind the tiny hamlet of Top of the World, Arizona, 75 miles east of Phoenix on U.S. Route 60. Goodale is a solid-framed woman with curly blond hair and a country-quiet voice. She works as a prison guard in Globe. But she hired out as a cowpoke until she was well into her 30s, and still guides trips all the way up into Haunted Canyon, a hard-to-find green sliver in the Tonto National Forest. For the last several years, she's been trying to ride herd on copper mining.
She's comfortable with all kinds of horsepower; today her big pickup truck lumbers down the freshly bulldozed scar of a mining road and stops just three-quarters of a mile behind her house where the land drops down toward Powers Gulch and Pinto Creek, which has been nominated by the U.S. Forest Service for Wild and Scenic River status.
In spots the ground is littered with Native American potsherds, evidence of civilizations that once lived here. Mule deer are abundant; so were javelina until local sportsmen held javelina shoots and annihilated them. Black bear migrate through to lunch on manzanita berries. To the west are the high ridges that mark the boundary of the Superstition Wilderness in the Tonto National Forest.
But it's a two-faced panorama. To the northeast is wasteland, the gouged tailings pits of the Magma/Pinto Valley Mine, acre upon acre of white desert talcum powder spewed out of the copper mines. This part of Arizona has always been mined. After thunderstorms, the washes run green with copper-tinted run-off that's coursed over some forgotten prospector's uncovered diggings. Three years ago, flash floods took out the big tailings impoundments at Pinto Valley and sent them racing down Pinto Creek into Roosevelt Lake.
And so you'd think that Goodale and her neighbors would be reconciled to the notion of another mining company coming in and taking another big chunk out of the earth.
But Goodale's fighting it.
The Carlota Copper Company wants to install a 300-acre hole behind Goodale's house, then put a 300-acre heap-leach pad--a mountain of copper-ore rocks and sulfuric acid--in the wash leading down to the creek.
The Environmental Protection Agency says the mining plan is unacceptable. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service have recommended that the mining company not get the appropriate permits to start up the mine. The U.S. Department of the Interior and the Arizona Game and Fish Department have all registered their concerns for water and air quality. A Forest Service staff geologist has said that the whole area is geologically unstable and subject to life-threatening landslides that could float the whole acid pile right down into Roosevelt Lake, Phoenix's largest reservoir.
Donna Goodale thinks the mine will suck the water right out of her well--just like earlier mines did to her parents' well, just a few miles east on U.S. 60. Indeed, the project's draft environmental impact statement reports that it will require 750 to 1,200 gallons of water per minute, 24 hours a day for the next 20-some years.
However, in the current political climate, such environmental details take a back seat to the economy. The town fathers of nearby Globe have lobbied for the 300 jobs the mine will create, and so have Arizona senators Jon Kyl and John McCain and Arizona Congressman J.D. Hayworth.
Of the bunch, only Hayworth actually showed his face in Top of the World.
Donna Goodale asked Hayworth about her water, and about the crushing machines and heavy trucks and high-intensity lights that would be operating less than a mile behind her house night and day for the next 20 years.
"He says that's what you've got to expect when you live in a mining district," Goodale reports of her conversation with the esteemed congressman. She's lived there for 30 years, and before that she lived three miles away. Hayworth didn't care.
"He says we knew there were mines here when we bought the place. There was no mine here. There were diggings down there. We moved here because it was next to the National Forest and we could ride horses there. It doesn't seem to bother him any. He's for making as much money as you can off the land."
Goodale followed up her meeting with the esteemed congressman by writing him a letter. "I know that one of your concerns is property rights," she wrote, "and property owners being compensated when their property is devalued by the federal government.
"I believe that we also have property rights. The mines do not have the right to destroy those property rights and water supplies without compensating us. It bothers me more that a foreign mining company can do this."
Goodale and her fellow citizens have been denounced locally as "radical environmentalists." One local journalist even warned his colleagues that if the crazed environmentalists disrupted the public hearings on the mines, then the good citizens of Globe should take up arms and run them off.