By Justin Lofton
TISHOMINGO—Concerned property owners and others with interest in the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer protested Arbuckle Aggregates, LLC’s mining application Thursday at an informal conference held by Oklahoma Department of Mines.
Elizabeth Nichols, attorney for Arbuckle Aggregates said the company is interested in hearing the concerns of its neighbors.
“Arbuckle Aggregates is committed to working with the community, working with state and federal agencies, working with the Chickasaw Nation and being a part of your community,” she said.
“We’re protesting the application because we fear that it’s going to irreparably damage the aquifer,” said Amy Ford, president of Citizens for the Protection of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer. “We know it’s going to go over three known springs in the area and it’s close to the headwaters of Pennington Creek, which is the sole source of water for Tishomingo.”
Geoff Canty, environmental consultant for Arbuckle Aggregates, said the mine would not be within Pennington Creek’s watershed. Lewis Parkhill, mayor of Tishomingo, said several of Pennington Creek’s tributaries’ headwaters were within a quarter of a mile of the proposed mine.
“Mill Creek and Pennington Creek will be at risk if this permit is granted,” Parkhill said.
Another concern raised by protestors is the currently unregulated use of pit water in the mines. While other water use in the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer is monitored and regulated by state regulations, pit water is currently not under those regulations. Representatives of CPASA said legislation is currently underway to regulate pit water. Shannon Shirley, a Mill Creek resident, said residents expected support from mining companies in passing legislation. Protestors also alleged any possible benefits of the mines would go to Texas.
“Today, we’re trying to get the Department of Mines to reconsider or not grant a permit to mine gravel a quarter of a mile from the headwaters of Pennington Creek. They can’t guarantee us that (mining) won’t damage the creek to the extent that we can’t even get water here in Tishomingo. That’s our only water source,” said Floy Parkhill, member of CPASA and Tishomingo resident.
Protestors of the mine included Mill Creek residents, Tishomingo residents and CPASA members. Representatives of the National Park Service, Southwest Region Fish and Wildlife Service and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife spoke in protest at the informal conference.
State Representative Paul Roan protested the application and State Senator Josh Brecheen encouraged Oklahoma Department of Mines to consider ramifications of the proposed mine carefully.
Arbuckle Aggregates maintains it is committed to an open process.
“Municipalities are having a bigger impact on springs and streams than the Arbuckle Aggregates could possibly have,” Canty, Arbuckle Aggregates’ environmental consultant, said.
“I think there were a lot of good concerns voiced that we want to take seriously as we move forward in our permit process,” said Peter Dawson, president of Arbuckle Aggregates. He said his company would incorporate those concerns into its business plans.
“I believe that everything we’re going to do from a planning, development and operational perspective will be protective of the environment and will not be detrimental to the aquifer either from a depletion perspective or a pollution perspective,” Dawson said.
Bret Sholer of the Oklahoma Department of mines moderated the event. Scholer reminded protesters and others attending that the conference was informal, not a legal proceeding and no decisions would be made that day.