Florence Rescinds Ordinance Banning Sulfuric Acid Use for Mine; Curis Copper Project to Move Forward

Millions of gallons of sulfuric acid soon could be spewed into underground crevices near Florence following that town's rescinding of a ban on the substance for mining.

Last August, the Town Council in the Southeast Valley burg, mostly recognized for its prison complex, passed an ordinance that prohibited large-quantity use of sulfuric acid for mining, a putative move toward halting a contentious $500 million copper project by Curis Resources of Vancouver.

The ordinance labeled the massive use of acid as a nuisance and "nauseous, offensive, and unwholesome business."

Now, it appears it's as American as apple pie.

The council, "after careful review and consideration," voted 7-0 Monday night to rescind the ban, according to a news release published by the San Tan Valley Ledger (which interestingly, has Curis advertisements next to the news release).

The town has been fighting the project for a while -- the council voted last month to use eminent domain to take about 1,200 acres of land the company wants to utilize. The decision didn't affect mining plans for state land near Florence.

Curis responded to the news by announcing it could continue preparations for the first phase of its copper mining plan.

The acid flow has one last blockage: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has yet to issue a final operating permit. Curis says it expects to receive that soon.

Michael McPhie, president and CEO of Curis, had this to say (in the company's news release):

We look to this decision as a positive first step towards building a more constructive relationship between Curis and the Town of Florence ... We remain committed to an open and transparent dialogue with the residents and the Town and look forward to the opportunity to continue to invest in the community, provide meaningful employment opportunities for locals and contribute to the quality of life of Florence, Pinal County and the State of Arizona.

UPDATE April 3 -- Jess Knudson, spokesman for the Town of Florence, returned our call on the issue, but said he's not able to make extensive comment on the decision for now.

Asked why the council members rescinded the ban, Knudson responded, "They believed it was in the best interest of the town and the community at large."

He would not elaborate. But he said the town continues to have the same "stance" in terms of wanting to stay involved with the permitting process for the planned mine project.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.