Augusta Resource Corporation commissioned a survey by Market Intelligence of Tucsonans about their proposed Rosemont Mine. Surprise! The survey, the results of which were quickly – and uncritically – reported by Inside Tucson Business, shows that about two-thirds of Tucsonans are in favor of the mine.
Or at least it does until you peek under the hood and look beyond the headlines. Take a look for yourself: Download rosemont_mine_survey1130.pdf.
The bottom line is that the survey does not report how Tucsonans feel about the proposed mine; it reports how they feel if everything Augusta says about the mine is assumed to be true.
"[I]t was determined that many area residents are likely to have a favorable opinion of the Rosemont Copper Mine if they could be assured that their collective concerns were addressed, including that the mining company will:
- Return the mining site to its current productive uses after mining operations have ceased by revegetating throughout the life of the mine.
- Ensure that the mining site is minimally visible from Highway 83, and is not visible from Tucson or Green Valley.
- Will use modern mining technology that is much more environmentally friendly and safer for miners than that used by previous mines.
- Will protect the local water and air supply from pollutants.
- Will purchase enough CAP water to guarantee a surplus of water to the area.
- Will minimize the effects to wildlife and recreation areas.
- Invest in local community projects and organizations unrelated to the mining project."
Those items I have highlighted in red are assertions that many area residents have serious reservations about concerning the proposed mine. If those issues are taken off the table, of course most people are in favor of the mine. Why wouldn’t one be? The surprising thing is that anyone is still opposed to the mine under such conditions, not that the majority favors it.
This "poll" is not an opinion poll at all, it is the basis for a marketing strategy to manufacture consent for the mine. Much of the poll is devoted to determining what sources of information people would find to be credible sources of information for Augusta’s claims about the mine. Now I wonder why they want to know that?..
The script used during the survey emphasizes Augusta’s approach to nullifying any of the valid concerns of residents, which are creating resistance to the mine, prior to getting an answer (i.e. the answer they want):
"For the first question, I am going to present a situation to you and I would like you to tell me how you would respond to it. The question contains a series of factors pertaining to a proposed local mining project and I am going to ask you to suppose that all of them are true. I am not asking whether or not you think they are believable, but rather – if you could be assured that everything I am telling you is true, how would you react.
(Ask the respondent if they are clear on the instructions, and clarify if necessary)
Q1. The Rosemont Copper mine is a project that is being explored on the east side of the Santa Rita Mountain Range that has a very large mineral deposit, which may result in an open pit mine. Are you familiar with this process?
If I were to tell you that the mining operators will (1) return the mining site to its current productive uses after mining operations have ceased by revegetating throughout the life of the mine, (2) ensure that the mining site is minimally visible from Highway 83, and is not visible from Tucson or Green Valley (3) will use modern mining technology that is much more environmentally friendly and safer for miners than that used by previous mines, (4) will protect the local water and air supply from pollutants, (5) will purchase enough CAP water to guarantee a surplus of water to the area, (6) will minimize the effects to wildlife and recreation areas and (7) invest in local community projects and organizations unrelated to the mining project.
Just to ensure you understand the question, I am not asking whether or not you believe what I have just told you. But if you could be assured that everything I told you was true, how favorable would you be of the mining project?"
That, my friends, is how you shape consensus where none exists, and create polling data that you can sell as a true picture of community sentiment, when it is nothing but a fantasy.
I can’t say that I’m surprised at the use of such an ethically-questionable tactic by Augusta to get their billions out of Tucson’s mountains, but I am quite surprised by the cupidity (or stupidity, take your pick) of Inside Tucson Business in publishing such a misleading poll without giving such counter-intuitive results a critical look – or worse, shoving the true nature of the poll under the rug to serve their own agenda.
Even after all that effort to damp down any concerns about the mine and to astro-turf their poll, there remains a great deal of skepticism about the mine. You will note that the reporting of the poll indicates 64% approval, but doesn’t bother to differentiate between strong approval and weak approval. Only 31.2% are strongly in favor, even when all controversial issues are taken off the table. 33.2% are only somewhat favorable even when Augusta warps reality to suit themselves.
Another piece of interesting data is that less than half of respondents (47%) from southeast Tucson, who would be most affected by the mine, are at all favorable toward the mine, even in the fantasy-land scenario drawn by Augusta.
Makes you wonder how many would be favorable if Augusta’s assertions were all assumed false?