Project Update: President Trump’s Executive Order, Liberty Star’s East Silverbell Porphyry Copper Project & The Ironwood Forest National Monument

May 02, 2017

Tucson, Arizona

On April 26, 2017 President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order directing his interior secretary to review the designation of dozens of national monuments on federal lands, calling the protection efforts “a massive federal land grab” by previous administrations. During a signing ceremony at the Interior Department, Trump said the order would end “another egregious abuse of federal power” and “give that power back to the states and to the people where it belongs.” [AZ Daily Star]

Of interest to Liberty Star is the Ironwood Forest National Monument established June 9, 2000 by President Bill Clinton. The monument is in the Silverbell Mountains and surrounding land within Pima and Pinal Counties, southeastern Arizona. The monument covers 188,619 acres (294.5 miles) of which 59,922 acres (93.6 miles) are non-federal and include private land holdings and Arizona State School Trust lands.

 

A view of Ragged Top Mountain across the “ironwood forest” largely populated by paloverde trees and native cacti. BLM photo

On long term lease from JABA (US) Inc. Liberty Star’s East Silverbell Porphyry Copper Project and the West Silverbell Project in the West Silverbell Mountains (which will be addressed by the next discussion release next week) are within the Silverbell Mining District located northwest of Tucson, Arizona within the Ironwood Forest National Monument. The establishment of the monument became official about ten years after the claim block (technically defined by geology, geochemistry and electrical and magnetic geophysics) was registered, and well over 100 years after the Silverbell Mining District was recognized.  Lode mining claim rental payments have been maintained up to the current time.  While open pit mining may not be economically feasible, in situ leaching may be quite practical and would have negligible effect on the surface of the land.At the time of its establishment, the monument was designed to protect a  stand of ironwood trees [Olneya Tesota] only covering about 1 square mile on the north side of Ragged Top Mountain [also known as “Saw Tooth”] on the north end of the North Silverbell Mountains.  The density of iron wood trees is grossly exaggerated as can be seen in the left hand panoramic view of Ragged Top looking Southeast.  No ironwood trees can be seen in this photo even though this was purported to be the main part of the proposed ironwood forest; instead there is a dense coverage of paloverde trees in full yellow bloom – but not an ironwood in sight.  This is because the soil favors paloverde and may even be toxic to ironwoods.  Soil and vegetation research undertaken by JABA Inc. prior to establishment of the Ironwood Forest National Monument was made available to anyone willing to look at the data. But this carefully gathered professional information was not considered by the BLM and other public and private entities.  It remains available for analysis.

Another consideration for the declaration was the presence of Hohokam and other Indian remains dating from 600 to 1450. The final factor for considering the area for extraordinary restriction of access was the protection of two species of the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl (previously called in publicity favorable to its “preservation” as the “desert ferruginous pygmy owl” because they supposedly only nested in ironwood trees). Curiously, the name change accompanies new claims that these owls changed habitation because it only likes to nest in holes in saguaro cacti. The evidence for the endangered designation was questionable at best, but forcefully advocated by the Tucson based Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups. In 1999 CEO/Chief Geologist James A. Briscoe accompanied a federal sanctioned survey team and noted several problems with the team’s data: however, the inaccuracies that became part of the report were never addressed.  By 2006, the two species were delisted as endangered species by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, San Francisco, of the U.S Federal Judiciary, ending one of the primary considerations to establish the monument originally.

Surrounded by the monument lying on patented land and an active history going back hundreds of years to the Spanish Colonial-and Republic of Mexico period (1528- 1848) is Asarco’s Silverbell Mine, currently operating 4 open pit copper mines. The Asarco solvent extraction electro winning (SXEW) plant is approximately 4 1/2 miles to the west of Liberty Star’s East Silverbell Project property line. The East Silverbell Porphyry Copper Project hosts 26 unpatented lode mining claims covering a previously unrecognized porphyry copper center. Two mining companies had some interest in the area during the late 1990s but relinquished the ground back to JABA Inc despite revealing enriched copper in one hole and substantial amounts of leached capping in all other holes: an indicator for porphyry copper deposits lying below beyond their drill holes 600-foot depth. Lack of sophisticated exploration expertise, errors in sample collection and stagnant copper prices contributed to the abandonment of the ground by these two companies prior to the identification of any ore body. The establishment of the Ironwood Forest National Monument precluding mining effectively killed exploration and development of the East Silverbell prospect.

The establishment of the Ironwood Forest National Monument was probably an unconstitutional “taking “by the federal government, which the Trump administration clearly recognizes.

Times certainly have changed and Liberty Star welcomes the Secretary of the Interior’s review of the Ironwood Forest National Monument. The pygmy owl thrives as it would with a reconfigured monument that allowed the development of Liberty Star’s projects while preserving the native flora, fauna and ancient civilization sites.

In the coming weeks, Mr. Briscoe will submit his ideas to revive the East Silverbell Porphyry Copper Project and the West Silverbell Project. Comments the Liberty Star CEO: “I’ve already been contacted by business interests in Tucson and Phoenix who realize our project is well positioned to take advantage of the existing attributes of the property.”

**AS OF MAY 12, 2017 A PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD IS UNDERWAY. THE PUBLIC MAY COMMENT ON THE FUTURE OF THE IRONWOOD FOREST NATIONAL MONUMENT BY GOING TO http://www.regulations.gov AND ENTERING “DOI-2017-0002”  IN THE SEARCH BAR AND AND CLICKING SEARCH. 

The public can also comment by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20240.

James A. Briscoe Registered Professional Geologist, AZ CA
CEO/Chief Geologist
Liberty Star Uranium & Metals Corp.

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One Response to Project Update: President Trump’s Executive Order, Liberty Star’s East Silverbell Porphyry Copper Project & The Ironwood Forest National Monument

  • Ronald S. Wielgus says:

    I used to mine recreationally near Ragged Top until it officially became included in the I F N M in June 2000. I felt the environmentalists really wanted the place for themselves to the exclusion of everyone else, using the ironwood tree as a bogus reason for establishing the monument. This tree is common throughout the Tucson basin and thriving and hardly needs protection in a national monument. I hope this monument will go away and never come back. It was once BLM administered public land and should be returned to the public for the befit of all citizens of the USA, not just a few tree huggers.

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