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Jun 12, 2013 2:20 AM by Rebecca Taylor

Patagonia mining meeting draws a large crowd

PATAGONIA - The historic town of Patagonia is being tapped for its silver and minerals.

Right now, multiple foreign mining companies are proposing open-pit mines.

An informational meeting was held Tuesday night by the U.S Forest Service and town officials, updating locals on mining activity.

Supporters say the open-pit mine will bring jobs and boost property values. Opponents say drilling is bad for the environment and tourism.

There was a big turnout for a small town, of about 900 residents.

Many are concerned for the well being of the Patagonia Mountains.

"We have worldwide visitors because we are known as a birding destination, a butterfly destination, a moth destination," said a local business owner.

"I think not only will there be damage, there is damage already," said Sergio Avila, a Patagonia resident and biologist.

Avila's concern is environmental and economic.

"The companies that are proposing mines are not considering existing jobs, not considering the public and the way they live, and property values," he said.

"We're looking to employ roughly 250 people, with an average salary of 70 thousand a year," said Greg Lucero, Vice President of Sustainable Development for Wildcat Silver Corporation.

Lucero feels the project will give Santa Cruz County a financial boost.

Right now, the Canadian-based company is explore drilling on 154 private acres near Patagonia

"We've got about 330 million ounces of silver identified on our property," said Lucero.

They've also staked another 7 thousand acres of claims on public Forrest Service land nearby.

That has some people upset, saying the mountains are their source of clean water and the centerpiece for tourism.

Actual mining may not begin until 2018. Wildcat Silver is researching water supplies, and must still pass environmental reviews.

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