John Wakefield opposes the Copper World/Rosemont Mine

Former exploration geologist, John Wakefield Ph.D. goes full Greta Thunberg in opposing Hudbay’s Copper World Mine in the Scenic Santa Rita Mountains. Read on to discover John’s reasons.

The Copper World (formerly Rosemont) Mine – pros and cons

As a former exploration geologist, I understand the need for copper and the tension between financial and environmental factors in deciding on the wisdom of creating large and ugly open pit mines in the beautiful Sonoran desert. The pros and cons are summarized below:

Arguments for Copper World

  1. Job Creation and Economic Boost:
    • Supporters argue that the mines would create quality mining jobs, paying around $80,000 per year or more to hundreds of employees.
    • They believe it would contribute to domestic mineral supplies, especially for the transition to green energy.
    • Advocates emphasize the need for the United States to source more copper domestically rather than relying on unreliable suppliers like China.
    • Copper is essential for electric vehicles, renewable energy sources, and modern conveniences like cell phones.
  2. National Copper Supply:
    • Supporters contend that sourcing copper from within the country is crucial.
    • They believe the mine can help meet the demand for copper in various industries.

Arguments against Copper World

  1. Environmental Concerns:
    • Opponents fear that the mine will:
      • Pollute surface and subsurface water, damaging aquifer quality and quantity.
      • Destroy natural habitats, endangering vulnerable and unique wildlife.
      • Cause regional air pollution.
      • Harm the local tourism industry.
    • The beloved Santa Rita Mountains, ecologically rich and appealing to tourists and residents, could be adversely affected.
  2. Groundwater and Toxic Dust:
    • Critics worry that the mine’s waste could infiltrate the area’s groundwater, which drains toward Tucson’s wells and the Santa Cruz River.
    • They express concern about toxic dust drifting across homes and schools in the Vail area.
    • The monitoring process relies on the company to report groundwater pollution violations, leading some opponents to question the effectiveness of self-policing.
  3. Shipping Copper Abroad:
    • Some opponents believe that Hudbay is likely to ship the copper out of the country due to limited capacity at U.S. smelters.
Ugly exploration roads disfigure the Santa Rita Mountains Southeast of Tucson. Note that these scars are merely tracks used to locate drill rigs for economic evaluation. If the mine goes ahead this area will be desecrated by three large open pits.

For further information, readers are urged to study the official Hudbay proposals here and counterarguments on the Save the Scenic Santa Ritas website here.

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My Opinion

The views below are based on years of insider experience working in mineral exploration and were focused by my very first job in Botswana,

My exciting first job influences my views

Imagine the sense of pride experienced by a rookie geologist on his first job after graduating. I was part of an exploration team prospecting for mineral deposits in the Kalahari Desert of Eastern Botswana.

Location of Selebi-Phikwe in Eastern Botswana
Location of Selebi-Phikwe in Eastern Botswana

We lived in tents and drove Landrovers up dry river beds in our exciting quest for hidden treasure. We contacted base camp in Francistown daily by shortwave radios in which the procedure was to signal the end of your message with the word “over“. This convention led to the following remarkable message “Selebi camp to base – I have turned the Landrover over, over!”

I turned the Landrover over .. over!
John cheats early death and gets a lesson in driving on muddy roads

Our collective endeavors led to the discovery of a substantial nickel-copper deposit that held immense promise for fostering economic development in an underdeveloped African nation. (the project was so unique and interesting that it formed the basis of my Ph.D., thesis and subsequent academic publications.)

Fast forward six decades and my dismay is palpable. The mine is now closed and residents of the Selebi-Phikwe area suffer chronic chest pains, persistent coughing, headaches, and serious respiratory issues. These afflictions stem from toxic fumes, mineral particles, and silica dust generated during mining operations.

John at the Tucson Festival of Books
John Wakefield supports Save the Scenic Santa Ritas at the Tucson Festival of Books

As an exploration geologist with more than 30 years of experience, I draw a sobering conclusion: mining, while essential for progress is inherently invasive. It consumes vast amounts of precious water, pollutes both air and water supplies, and adversely affects wildlife and tourism.

My encounters with major mining corporations have revealed disconcerting truths: promises are often broken in the relentless pursuit of profits. Corners are cut, regulations skirted, and fines paid rather than compliance unheld. And when the copper price plummets and the mine’s economic viability wanes, the fiscally prudent response is to declare bankruptcy, retreat to Canada, and leave a daunting cleanup task.

These are the unpredictable but potentially disastrous consequences of trusting a large for-profit foreign corporation, especially one left to monitor its own performance. As stewards of the planet, we must tread carefully to ensure that prosperity does not come at the cost of irreparable harm.

Explore the beautiful Santa Rita Mountains, AZ with the help of this map – No. 2962S (Green Trails Maps) Map – Folded Map, February 1, 2018


I was an exploration geologist and University Professor working in Botswana, Zambia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Portugal, and other countries before opening Artistry in Glass in 1986. In my more than 35 years of experience, I have brought my technical abilities as a scientist to the trade of glasswork. During this time I have become an industry expert in glass and glass-related skills. Watch out for special insider tips developed from my detailed knowledge of the glass business.

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