A new copper mine? NIMBY - The Explorer: Editorials

A new copper mine? NIMBY

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Posted: Tuesday, August 26, 2008 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:02 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

I once noticed a large office building on Wilshire Boulevard., in L.A. that completely surrounded an older home. That home owner simply didn’t want to sell and used his property rights accordingly.

Today, courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court’s liberal majority, the City of Los Angeles would use eminent domain and then sell the house to the developer. More “progress” in the name of the “general welfare.”

A similar case of conflicting rights exists southeast of Tucson in the Santa Rita Mountains, where the Augusta Mining Company wants a huge copper mining operation. Most of it would take place on their own land, but too many of my fellow free market types stop their analysis there and support the mining operation, citing the mine’s property rights. They join those calling opponents “environmental whackos” and “NIMBYs” — folks guilty of opposing something as “Not In My Backyard.”

That NIMBY epithet requires more analysis.

I find it amusing and hypocritical that conservative property right supporters suddenly become collectivists when a homeowner objects to having the new Skunk Works or Biker Bar built across the street. Just shut up and sacrifice like a good little commie?

Forget the environmental impact of that proposed mine — which would be immense. Let’s discuss “common good” issues and property rights.

Augusta needs land beyond what it owns to make the mine viable. It also needs the expansion of public infrastructure and water it doesn’t possess. Part of that is a place for the mine tailings and bigger roads to haul ore. Land belonging to the federal government and state roads are required. Bottom line, they have no property rights to everything they need, most of all water. They need lots of it. So do the rest of us. Their answer is to build a CAP pipeline at their expense sometime in the future to replace groundwater they’ll use now.

The biggest Arizona fantasy is the water that isn’t there in the Colorado River. Another possible fantasy is that the deal to build it later could be reneged.

Property rights of those affected by the mine also exist. The shattering of lifestyles is incalculable personally and financially, and a principle courts have only peripherally addressed. The shattering of many historical adobe buildings within seismic range of the ongoing explosions mining requires is another factor.

Full disclosure — I’m a board member of the Empire Ranch Foundation, whose role is preservation of the 19th-century ranch house and buildings close to the mining site. Lots of continuous big booms nearby are not helpful.

The state Game and Fish Department has taken a strong stand against Augusta, claiming it would destroy a great quantity of wildlife habitat. As a longtime supporter of the NRA and gun rights in general, I oppose anything that reduces hunting and other legitimate firearms use.

Somewhere between Dred Scott and the Kelo eminent domain decision, the Supreme Court made the supreme blunder of extending to all corporations the same rights as individuals. Most conservatives again err in failing to note as Teddy Roosevelt did that a corporation is nothing but a stack of privileges granted by government and as such can —and should — be controlled. Augusta isn’t “entitled” to much of what it claims.

Worse, it’s credibility suffered greatly when a public hearing was packed with buses filled with the unemployed for whom Augusta bought dinner and told they were going to help get jobs by putting on a button and filling a room. Sleazy crap like that inclines me to disbelieve other claims.

And I live 65 miles away, so don’t try that NIMBY stuff on me.

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