“For me this has been a long thing that I’ve watched the town go through, and I’m proud to sit here and say that it’s finally coming to a close,” Vice Mayor Michelle Cordes commented from the council dais. “And that we as a town can move forward. And I hope that we have a good partnership with Florence Copper.
“And if you look at our neighbors who have good partnerships with the mines that are in their towns as well. So for us as a town I think it’s a great thing that we’re moving forward and finally putting an end to all of this,” Cordes said.
Town staff had no further comment on the three separate motions approved 6-0, with Mayor Tara Walter abstaining each time. Settling with Florence Copper includes the town reimbursing the company’s legal fees of more than $1.7 million, plus interest of $214,099, plus Florence Copper’s fees of $193,628 to fight the town’s appeal.
The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled for Florence Copper in March. The town unsuccessfully argued that a 2003 development agreement allowing the company to mine was no longer in force. The town, often in partnership with developers, has sued Florence Copper at various times over the years in an attempt to stop the company from extracting copper off Hunt Highway in the geographical center of Florence.
The town and many of the mine’s neighbors over the years have doubted the in-situ mining process, in which the mineral is dissolved underground and pumped to the surface, could be done without contaminating the groundwater.
In recent years, the town has spent just under $300,000 per year in legal battles with Florence Copper. Recent annual town budgets have set aside as much as $500,000 in legal costs related to Florence Copper.
The company commented in a brief statement Tuesday:
“Florence Copper Inc. and the town of Florence have resolved the outstanding legal disputes that had arisen between the two parties over the years. We are pleased that these legal matters are now resolved and behind us.
“The full focus of our attention and effort can now be dedicated to the many tasks associated with getting the $230 million commercial operation up and running,” the statement concluded.
Florence Copper has been producing copper in a small-scale test phase for two years, and is awaiting permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that will allow it to ramp up to commercial production of 85 million pounds per year for 20 years.
Possibly signaling Monday’s Town Council action, the council voted 5-2 early this year not to fight Florence Copper’s state permit for full-scale commercial mining.