Welcome to Save the Scenic Santa Ritas!
Save the Scenic Santa Ritas is a non-profit organization working to protect the Santa Rita and Patagonia Mountains from environmental degradation caused by mining and mineral exploration activities. Our current activities focus on the proposed Rosemont Copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains.
8/11/2016: Army Corps’ recommendation to deny Rosemont a Clean Water Act permit follows years of warnings that the proposed mine fails to comply with the law
(Tucson, Ariz.) Last month’s recommendation by the US Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles district to deny a required Clean Water Act (CWA) permit for the proposed Rosemont mine is consistent with repeated warnings by state and federal agencies that the project failed to comply with the law.
Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals Inc., the owner of the Rosemont project, has failed to submit a mitigation plan to compensate for the destruction of desert wetlands that meets the CWA’s requirements under Section 404 of the law.
In 2014, the Army Corps notified the previous owners of the Rosemont project that its Sec. 404 mitigation plan was insufficient. No new mitigation plan has been offered since that time.
The Corps’ district recommendation has been forwarded to the San Francisco regional office, which is expected to make a final decision in the near future.
5/4/2016: Release of Fish and Wildlife Service opinion on Endangered Species signals the beginning of the end of the Rosemont Mine
As expected, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service today issued a biological opinion that Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals’ proposed massive Rosemont open-pit copper mine “is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence" of a dozen threatened and endangered species including the only known wild jaguar in the U.S. Release of the opinion clears the way for other federal agencies to make crucial regulatory decisions on the ultimate fate of the Rosemont project.
“For years, the Fish and Wildlife Service has issued biological opinions that have been successfully challenged in Federal Court and we expect that is what will happen here,” said Gayle Hartmann, President of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas. “The Rosemont project will destroy the habitat of endangered species with its half-mile deep open pit and mine waste piles stacked 600-800 feet high spread over five square miles of the Coronado National Forest.”
Rather than stopping the mine, the biological opinion calls for "reasonable and prudent measures" to minimize mine impacts including some that are left to the discretion of relevant agencies.
The FWS biological opinion is in stark contrast to the views of the other wildlife managers. The Arizona Game and Fish Department concluded “the [Rosemont Copper] project will render the northern portion of the Santa Rita Mountains virtually worthless as wildlife habitat and as a functioning ecosystem, and thus also worthless for wildlife recreation.”
The opinion comes after FWS reinitiated consultation with the U.S. Forest Service on the Rosemont project in 2014 after new sightings of ocelots in the vicinity of the mine plus the availability of new hydrological information.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to issue its long-awaited decision on Hudbay’s request for a Clean Water Act permit to allow the mine to dump waste rock, tailings and other fill material into washes, streams, seeps and other waterways of the United States.
Both the Corps and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency repeatedly have criticized the Rosemont project for its failure to provide adequate mitigation for the irreversible damage it would cause to Southern Arizona’s water resources.
The lack of suitable mitigation sets the stage for the denial of the Section 404 Clean Water Act permit. EPA also has veto authority over the Corp’s issuance of 404 permits. Hudbay must also obtain the Forest Service's approval of Rosemont’s proposed Mine Plan of Operations.
On the state level, Hudbay needs an air quality control permit before the mine can be constructed. A Maricopa County Superior Court in March 2015 overturned the Department of Environmental Quality’s issuance of the air permit. Hudbay appealed the decision. The Arizona Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear oral arguments in May.
Hudbay announced in March an unspecified delay in its plans to build the $1.5 billion mine because of low copper prices. The company, however, is continuing its effort to obtain permits needed to build the mine.
2/8/2016: Save the Scenic Santa Ritas: Survival of America's only known wild jaguar seriously threatened by proposed Rosemont Mine
3/6/15: Court Overturns Rosemont Air Pollution Permit - ADEQ decision ruled “not supported by evidence” and “an abuse of discretion”
February 2015: SSSR releases new Rosemont Mine Risk Report
September 2014: For the latest information regarding the proposed Rosemont mine and the recent aquisition by Hudbay Minerals, please see www.rosemontminetruth.com. For links to recent news articles, see our news page.
SPECIAL REPORT: Heavy Rains Produce Toxic Acid Runoff from Old Mines in Patagonia Mtns.
HudBay’s acquisition changes nothing – Rosemont is still a bad project
(TUCSON, Ariz.) Today’s announcement that Augusta Resource Corporation has accepted Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals' hostile takeover bid does nothing to change the simple facts that the proposed massive Rosemont open pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson would inflict devastating impacts on southern Arizona’s environment and economy and still faces daunting regulatory challenges.
“The proposed Rosemont Mine will always be a bad project no matter who owns it,” said SSSR president Gayle Hartmann. “The massive open pit mine threatens southern Arizona’s drinking water, air quality, wildlife and mountains. We will continue to oppose this terrible proposal until it is defeated.”
Today’s news that Augusta accepted the bid also exposes the company's repeated promises that it was “committed” to the region as nothing more than a deceptive public relations campaign trying to convince southern Arizonans that the Rosemont Mine was somehow essential to the future of southern Arizona’s economy.
HudBay now assumes the regulatory burden of getting the project approved which, given recent developments, is far from certain. Major regulatory hurdles remain, including:
The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is inadequate and may have to be revised or supplemented. Not only does the FEIS for the proposed mine present significant new information that must be put out for another round of public comment but it is missing information on impacts of the mine to private well owners, impacts of displaced recreation, invasive species, impacts to migratory birds from the toxic pit lake, revegetation, and many more potential economic and environmental effects. In addition, its identification and analysis of the effectiveness of proposed mitigation measures is seriously flawed. While the Forest Service has rejected a number of specific objections filed by Arizona citizens and local governments, earlier this month the Regional Forester directed the Coronado National Forest Supervisor to consider either revising or supplementing the FEIS in light of new information and following the completion of a new round of consultation under the Endangered Species Act.
Rosemont air pollution permit challenged in court. A lawsuit has been filed in Maricopa County (AZ) Superior Court seeking to overturn the state’s illegal decision to issue an air pollution permit for the Rosemont mine. The suit alleges that the modeling information Rosemont provided the state was based on data that was manipulated in a misleading attempt to show that the mine operations would comply with air quality standards.
The Fish and Wildlife Service and Forest Service reinitiate Endangered Species Act consultations. The recent photograph of an ocelot near the proposed Rosemont copper mine site, combined with new information on the impacts to water supplies on which other endangered species depend, has triggered a new round of formal Endangered Species Act consultations between the two federal agencies. New information about the proposed mine’s potential depletion of water resources on the federally-owned Las Cienegas National Conservation Area located in the valley immediately east of the Santa Rita Mountains indicate that the project impacts on water-based endangered species is much more serious than previously anticipated.
The US Army Corps of Engineers deems the plan to mitigate the Rosemont Mine’s damage to vital watershed inadequate, thus jeopardizing the essential Sec. 404 permit. The Army Corps notified Rosemont last month that its most recent mitigation plan in its application for a Clean Water Act permit fails to fully compensate for damage the proposed mine would cause to springs, washes and wetlands. The mine cannot be built without the 404 permit.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended denial of the Rosemont Sec. 404 Clean Water Act permit. In a November letter sent to the Army Corps, the EPA states that the proposed wetlands mitigation plan to compensate for the loss of jurisdictional waters of the United States is “insufficient to avoid ‘significant degradation’ of the aquatic ecosystem.” The EPA stated “the proposed mitigation is grossly inadequate to compensate for the mine’s impact.”
Federal, State, and County jurisdictions object to water quality certification for the Rosemont project. Pima County, the EPA, the Army Corps and the Arizona Department of Game and Fish have all raised serious concerns regarding a critical state water quality protection certification that is needed before construction can begin. The state certification must be issued before the Army Corps can approve the 404 permit and construction can begin on the mine.
The proposed Rosemont Mine will significantly impact the water resources of a congressionally-established National Conservation Area. The BLM-managed Las Cienegas National Conservation Area lies in the valley directly east of Rosemont's proposed mile-wide, half-mile deep open-pit copper mine. The 45,000-acre conservation area was protected by Congress in part to protect the northerly-flowing Cienega Creek that bisects the site. The Final Environmental Impact Statement states the mine is likely to have negative impacts on Cienega Creek by lowering the groundwater table and reducing the surface flows on important tributaries, including Empire Gulch and Davidson Canyon. Two streams flowing from the Santa Rita Mountains into the conservation area are listed as Outstanding Arizona Waters and are legally protected from any degradation.
Key state groundwater pollution permit taken to court. SSSR filed a lawsuit challenging the issuance of the Aquifer Protection Permit (APP), a key state water permit needed to begin construction of the mine. The project would be constructed in a watershed that provides recharge to a primary drinking water aquifer for a community of almost 1 million. The suit alleges, among other things, that the state illegally issued the permit without taking into account the mine’s impact on surface waters. A decision is expected later this summer.
The proposed mine’s devastating impacts to the land and water has generated widespread and determined opposition to the project. Opponents include:
Native American Communities -- The Tohono O’odham Nation and Pascua Yaqui Tribe, the tribal governments in the vicinity of the proposed mine, stated in a jointly authored column published in the local paper, that “this mine will destroy our sacred lands known as Ce:wi Duag by the Tohono O’odham and Heweli Sewa Kawi by the Pascua Yaqui that link our ancestors to our future generations.”
Local governments -- The City of Tucson, Pima County, Santa Cruz County, Town of Patagonia, and Green Valley Community Coordinating Council have all passed resolutions against the project. Opposition remains steadfast in spite of Rosemont’s failed attempts to influence local elections by backing candidates seeking to defeat elected officials and candidates that oppose the mine.
National and Arizona conservation organizations -- In January, a dozen Arizona and national environmental groups sent a joint letter to elected officials requesting that they oppose the construction of the proposed mine. The “short-sighted mining proposal, [is] a project that would primarily enrich a handful of foreign investors at the expense of those of us whose lives and livelihoods would be jeopardized by the mine's depletion of precious groundwater supplies and its pervasive round-the-clock water, air, noise, and light pollution,” the letter stated.
Check out the below report from March, 2014:
County takes 90 days to review Rosemont Mine mitigation fee proposal
Augusta ignores Army Corps concerns and continues to tell investors 404 Clean Water Act permit will be issued by June 30
Hudbay extends hostile bid for Rosemont developer
How you can get involved
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NEPA update: What’s Next in the Forest Service’s Review Process for the Rosemont Mine?
The Coronado National Forest published the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for the proposed Rosemont Mine online in December 2013. The objection period closed on February 14, 2014, and we are waiting to hear the Forest Service respond to the 200+ page objection we filed. (Read more...)
SSSR Press Release December 13, 2013
(TUCSON, ARIZ.) The Coronado National Forest has announced the publication of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Draft Record of Decision for the proposed Rosemont open pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson. A pre-publication version of the FEIS was posted on the Forest's website last week.
In the face of the PR spin that inevitably emanates from Rosemont and its parent company, Augusta Resource Corporation, it is important to keep these five key facts in mind:
Press Release: November 20, 2013
EPA Recommends Against Federal Water Permit for Rosemont Mine
Mine would cause "substantial and unacceptable impact" to southern Arizona water supplies
(TUCSON, Ariz.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has dealt a dramatic and potentially devastating blow to Augusta Resource Corporation's proposal to build the Rosemont mine, a massive open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains just south of Tucson.
In a Nov. 7 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA recommended that the proposed Rosemont copper mine should not receive a permit that would allow the company to dump potentially toxic mine wastes into area waterways.
After completing a comprehensive and detailed analysis, EPA concluded that Rosemont's proposals to mitigate the mine's severe and permanent damage to area water supplies are "scientifically flawed" and "grossly inadequate," and advised the Corps of Engineers that the project "should not be permitted as proposed."
The EPA's recommendation to deny Rosemont's permit application is a potentially devastating blow to the mining project because EPA has veto authority over the permit, which would be issued by the Corps of Engineers only if the proposed mine meets Clean Water Act standards. The permit is required before construction could begin on the mile-wide, half-mile deep open pit mine.
EPA was highly critical of all three components of Rosemont's mitigation proposal, undermining the company's high-profile attempts to claim that the mine will comply with environmental standards. In particular, EPA said that it agreed with the Corps of Engineers that two of the three sites Rosemont was proposing to acquire (Sonoita Creek Ranch and Mulberry Canyon) "would not provide appropriate compensatory mitigation for impacts to waters from the Rosemont Mine project."
With respect to the third proposed Rosemont mitigation acquisition (water rights and land below Pantano Dam), the EPA indicated that it might have some mitigation value for a much smaller project ("e.g., flood control or highway project") but "is inadequate compensation for impacts proposed to be permitted at Rosemont Mine."
EPA's recommendation to deny the Clean Water Act permits comes at an inopportune time for Augusta Resource, Rosemont Copper's parent company. Its stock is hovering at a 52-week low and the company reported less than $750,000 in cash reserves as of Sept. 30, according to regulatory filings released last week.
Augusta's cash crisis raises serious questions as to whether Augusta will have the financial capacity to secure technical expertise to address EPA's latest criticisms of the crucial Clean Water Act permit.
The full EPA letter and analysis can be downloaded at:
Press Release: October 31, 2013
“Cyanide Beach” documentary wins “Best Education Film” at Yosemite International Film Festival
InvestigativeMEDIA is pleased to announce that its documentary film “Cyanide Beach” has been named “Best Education Film” in the 2013 Yosemite International Film Festival. The Yosemite festival awards recognition for some of the world's finest and most visionary independent films made by many of the leading contemporary artists and creative minds working in cinema and screenwriting today.
Watch Cyanide Beach, an explosive documentary from award-winning investigative journalist, John Dougherty. The film chronicles the deceptive business tactics of top executives at Augusta Resource Corporation - owner of Rosemont Copper - when they owned and operated an open-pit gold mine in Sardinia Italy from 2003-07. You’ll see their trail of unpaid vendors, a misspent government loan, hidden investors, and a toxic mess that locals call "Cyanide Beach."
Learn more at Dougherty’s Investigative Media website.
Press Release: Oct. 15, 2013
Save the Scenic Santa Ritas releases Investor Update on Augusta Resource Corporation
Today, Save the Scenic Santa Ritas (SSSR), a non-profit environmental organization comprised of ranchers, small business owners and community members opposing the proposed massive Rosemont open-pit copper mine released an Investor Update on Augusta Resource. This Investor Update can be accessed by clicking here.
Augusta Resource, a junior Canadian mining company, is seeking through its Rosemont Copper subsidiary, permits to build a massive open-pit copper mine on 4,000-acres in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest just south of Tucson.
This Investor Update provides current and potential investors with essential information that the company may not have provided in its investor relations efforts. It is not intended to provide investment advice, but rather to share critical information upon which to base future decisions.
The Investor Update describes important actions concerning Augusta’s proposal, provides an overview of the company and the questionable background of key officers, and identifies unresolved regulatory issues that could block approval of the mine. The information in the update is robustly sourced having been derived from regulatory records, Augusta Resource’s financial filings, and technical reports and various media accounts.
The proposed mine would have devastating impacts on Southern Arizona’s water, air, wildlife and economy and there is unprecedented opposition. Political, business, tribal and environmental leaders have joined with citizens from all walks of life to oppose this project. Their opposition is based on its impacts to the quality of life and economy of both current and future Southern Arizona residents and businesses.
Because of its devastating impacts on the Santa Rita Mountains and threats to regional water resources, BankTrack, a global network that tracks the environmental impacts of the financial sector is closely following the proposed Rosemont Copper mine. Click here to read the BankTrack report on the Rosemont project.
SSSR is a non-profit organization working to protect the Santa Rita and Patagonia Mountains from environmental degradation caused by mining and mineral exploration activities. Our current activities are focused on the proposed Rosemont Copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains.
Press Release: Sept. 16, 2013
Forest Service Makes the Right Call on Rosemont Mine