Always on the lookout for strange and unusual happening in mining? Here is one from Arizona that caught my attention as I browsed through the blogs that mention mining. Seems the post of State Mining Inspector is on the ballot and, as you would expect, there is a challenger to the incumbent.
Now we have grown jaded hearing Federal Senate candidates reassure us they are not witches and take a stand against masturbation, but this Arizona political attack seems sillier by far.
The State Mining Inspectors is paid $50,000 a year (not much come to think of it), and this is what he does:
Oversee a staff of three administrators and four inspectors that are responsible for ensuring the safe operation of Arizona’s working mines. The agency also oversees the reclamation and closure of non-working mines, including the thousands of abandoned mines that dot the state.
That makes eight of them in the department. Let us assume with benefits, that it costs the state $100,000 per staff person, and we soon have a million dollar agency. I would be interested to hear what those Arizona tea party folk think of this use of their taxes. I mean, it works out at one administrator per inspector!
Any rate back to the election fight. It appears that the challenger, Mr. Cruz, claims that the incumbent, Mr. Hart lied about his mining experience in the 2006 election. Mr. Hart apparently said he had four years underground mining experience when he had only 20 years open pit experience.
To top things off, once in office, Mr. Hart worked to have the requirement for underground mine experience remove from the list of criteria for office. Don’t forget that there is only one underground mine in Arizona.
Here is how the report tells this story:
At a news conference Wednesday, Cruz asserted that his opponent never had the four years of underground mining experience that was required for the job when he ran in 2006. “He worked at surface mines,” Cruz said, referring to Hart’s 20 years of experience at Duval Mining Corp. near Kingman. “If Mr. Hart lacked the relevant mining experience, then he knowingly and fraudulently misrepresented himself as a qualified candidate when submitting a sworn affidavit attesting to that in 2006,” Cruz said. Cruz, who has worked in underground mines, believes the experience gave him a body of knowledge that would be valuable in the mine inspectors’ post. “They lowered the standards,” he said.
Mr. Hart says that he is confident nothing will come of this challenge.
Here is the link to Mr. Cruz’s campaign website. Interesting reading. I liked this claim:
He intends to make abandoned mine closure a top priority using cost-cutting, innovative, and environmentally friendly methods.
Mr. Hart touches my heart, for he is a prolific blogger. Here is how he describes himself:
Joe is a staunch advocate for mine safety, reclamation, strong leadership and integrity. In addition, Joe is a strong advocate for private property rights.
If you are wondering about all this to-do for $50K a years, do not forget that the Rosemont Copper Mine is at stake in this election. Now that is big deal politics and worth throwing an illegal maid or nanny under the bus for. Here is how one blogger tells it:
Under the leadership of Republican Joe Hart, the office of Mine Inspector has become a captive agency of the industry it was established to regulate for miner safety. “Regulatory capture” occurs when a state regulatory agency created to act in the public interest instead acts in favor of the commercial or special interests that dominate in the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. Regulatory capture is a form of government failure, as it can encourage large firms to produce negative externalities, e.g., safety hazards for workers and environmental hazards.
The Arizona Daily Star reports today: Joe Hart, a Republican, is an unabashed promoter of the mining industry who publicly supports the Rosemont copper mine proposed for the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson. An employee of the Duval copper mine near Kingman for more than 20 years, Hart likes to say of his four children: “Not one of them has a student loan due to the mining industry.” “If the mine inspector can’t advocate for mining in the state of Arizona, then who can?” he said in an interview Friday.
The Mine Inspector’s Office has the power to levy fines against mining companies for violating safety regulations, but Hart said he prefers not to use that power – to be the inspectors in the “white hats.” We don’t make any big huge fines to people who have infractions,” Hart said. “We’re not punitive.”
Hart is funding his own campaign and has received thousands of dollars in donations from mining-industry groups, lobbyists and executives. For example, Jamie Sturgess, a vice president at Rosemont, has contributed at least $600. Other contributors include the Freeport-McMoRan Political Action Committee, the Rio Tinto America PAC, the Arizona Portland Cement PAC and the Arizona Rock Products Association.
Mr. Hart fails to understand the primary function of his office: miner safety. He openly admits that his office is a captive agency of the mining industry, and he is damn proud of taking their money. Call it political corruption, it is certainly a failure of government under his direction.
I could fill pages on the debate over the proposed mine—but leave you to seek out the pros and cons yourself. As for the candidates and their qualifications, none of us has the vote, but we sure will watch the outcome with interest. And maybe ask the candidates to state their position on MSHA, mine safety, and opening of the Rosemont Copper Mine. At the least, they should enable the voters of Arizona, mad and angry as they are, to deliver a plebiscite on opening a new mine in Arizona.
PS. Here is a link to an interview of the two candidates and posted comments on their competence.
PPS. Joe Hart won the election with 57 percent of the votes.