More than two dozen people called Freeport McMoran to voice their concern when high winds caused a dust storm near the Sierrita Mine Thursday. What will result from those complaints remains unknown, but when Pima County officials determined Freeport violated its permit by allowing dust mine to escape the property in 2018 Freeport not only reached a financial settlement with the county, it spent $200,000 to help 800 residents clean their homes.
On Tuesday, Beth Gorman, a spokeswoman with the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality said it will likely be "at least a couple of months" before a decision will be made as to whether the mine again violated its permit.
When asked if the mine is again considering helping residents with cleanup efforts, spokesman Linda Hayes would only say "We are continuing to collect information from the 28 residents who have contacted us."
Several Green Valley residents called the Green Valley News around noon Thursday questioning whether Freeport McMoran was again in violation of its permit after seeing a large amount of dust coming from near the mine. Several sent photos.
At that time Gorman said a DEQ inspector who happened to be in the area also saw the dust and headed to the Sierrita Mine. On Friday, Gorman said the inspector was writing up an inspection report and gathering data and logging evidence.
"After all that process is complete, management will thoroughly review, make any necessary requests to Freeport staff for documents such as tailings maintenance records and other types of reports," Gorman wrote in an email. "Meetings may occur with Freeport staff for them to explain actions that were taken leading up to the wind event, etc."
She said permit compliance decisions are made only after thorough review of all the evidence in the case.