For Immediate Release: March 7, 2013
Rosemont Air Permit Based on Wrong Mining Plan and Manipulated Data
ADEQ Decision Challenged by Local Coalition
(Tucson, Ariz.) The air pollution permit issued in late January by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) for the proposed Rosemont Mine was based on an outdated mining plan that differs dramatically from the one Rosemont Copper announced last summer. The permit was also based on data that was manipulated by Rosemont to hide potential air pollution violations in Tucson and Pima County.
Those are among the key issues cited in an appeal of the ADEQ decision by Save the Scenic Santa Ritas (SSSR), a local coalition of farmers, ranchers, residents and businesses who are concerned about the damage the proposed open-pit copper mine would cause to southern Arizona's water supplies, air quality and economy.
"It's hard to believe that ADEQ would simply rubber-stamp this permit application," said Dr. Tom Purdon, a Green Valley physician. "ADEQ should have reviewed data about the mine that Rosemont actually intends to build, not data about a plan they discarded more than six months earlier."
In its appeal, SSSR identified several additional flaws in ADEQ's review of the Rosemont applications, including ADEQ's:
• failure to adequately evaluate Rosemont's setting of "process area boundary" for modeling air pollution emissions in direct violation of ADEQ standards;
• failure to adequately evaluate Rosemont's questionable claim that mining operations will not exceed 10 tons per year of certain hazardous air pollutants or 25 tons combined of those hazardous air pollutants; and
• failure to adequately evaluate Rosemont's manipulated modeling techniques that misrepresented weather conditions and other modeling inputs in order to avoid data showing violations of the Clean Air Act.
"Air pollution from the Rosemont Mine has the potential to harm the health and safety of southern Arizonans," said SSSR President Gayle Hartmann. "The ADEQ needs to follow its own regulations and require Rosemont to use accurate modeling techniques to ensure that the mine doesn't cause Tucson and Pima County to exceed air pollution standards. To do otherwise would jeopardize the health of those of us who live and work here."
Contrary to Rosemont's misrepresentations to potential investors and others, the ADEQ air pollution permit is just one of seven permits or other decisions that still must be obtained by Rosemont Copper before it can proceed with the mine:
• The US Forest Service must complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and issue a Record of Decision. In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency gave the draft EIS its lowest possible rating and concluded that it was one of the worst EIS's ever reviewed. The Forest Service process has been delayed in large part by Rosemont's failure to provide requested information and by the Company's decision to dramatically change its mining proposal in July 2012.
• The US Army Corps of Engineers must issue a permit under the Clean Water Act that allows Rosemont to pollute area waterways. As with the EIS, the Environmental Protection Agency concluded in 2012 that the Rosemont Mine would cause "significant degradation" of area waterways, including "substantial and unacceptable impacts" to Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek.
• The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) must issue a Biological Opinion assessing whether the Rosemont Mine would jeopardize nearly a dozen threatened and endangered species, including the jaguar, ocelot and southwestern willow flycatcher. In addition, the FWS is in the process of designating critical habitat for both jaguars and the southwestern willow flycatcher that may include the Rosemont Mine site. The Arizona Department of Game and Fish has concluded that the Rosemont Mine "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." Federal agencies are not allowed to approve actions that destroy or adversely modify critical habitat for endangered species.
• The Aquifer Protection Permit issued by the ADEQ in 2012 is still under appeal on the grounds that it fails to protect area groundwater supplies. The Water Quality Appeals Board has not yet ruled on the appeal.
• The Forest Service must also consult with the State Historic Preservation Office and, potentially, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to ensure that the Rosemont Mine doesn't adversely affect historic and cultural sites, including traditional lands of the Tohono O'odham Nation and other Native American Tribes.
For Immediate Release: January 31, 2013
Statement of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas on Rosemont Air Permit
(Tucson, Ariz.) Below is the statement of Gayle Hartmann, President of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas (SSSR) regarding the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s (ADEQ’s) decision to issue the air quality permit for the proposed Rosemont Copper mine.
Once again, Rosemont's PR spin has gotten ahead of the facts. According to their previous press releases, they should have already been mining and destroying the Santa Ritas years ago.
ADEQ's approval of this permit is not surprising. This agency has been decimated by budget cuts, and is beholden to the regulated entities that pay the permitting fees to keep it afloat.
We will closely examine this permit and determine our next steps including an appeal.
This mine is far from a certainty.
The Forest Service has indefinitely postponed completion of the environmental analysis of the Rosemont project and a decision on it.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to include the mine site as critical habit for the endangered jaguar. There is indisputable photographic evidence that only known jaguar remaining in North America spends time near the proposed Rosemont project.
In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has seriously questioned the federal Clean Water Act permit that Rosemont needs to obtain from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. EPA has veto power over any Clean Water Act permit issued by the Corps.
The bottom line is that this mine threatens our air, our mountains, along with the lives and livelihoods of those who live and work here. Rosemont thinks they can wear us down, but they underestimate our resilience.
Download a copy of this press release.
For Immediate Release
November 15, 2012
TUCSON, Ariz., Nov. 15, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Two Arizona Congressmen and a southern Arizona county executive have raised serious questions about Rosemont Copper Company and its proposed copper mine near Tucson. They have asked the U.S. Forest Service to prepare a new Draft Environmental Impact Statement before allowing Rosemont and its Canadian parent company, Augusta Resource Corporation, to begin digging the mine.
The questions stem from Augusta's unexpected announcement in July that it was making sweeping changes to the Rosemont mine operating plans on which the original environmental review was based. As a result of these "substantial changes," a new environmental report is required to assess the impacts of the new operating plan. Augusta and Rosemont are seeking state and federal permits to build the mile-wide, half- mile deep open-pit mine about 30 miles south of Tucson and to dump hundreds of millions of tons of mine waste laced with mercury, lead, arsenic and other toxics on more than 3,000 acres of the adjacent Coronado National Forest.
The Forest Service is expected to make a decision before the end of the year on whether to issue a Final EIS for the Rosemont copper mine or require Augusta to prepare a new environmental analysis that could delay the project.
In its July announcement, Augusta said the changes to its proposed mining plan included piling an additional 70 million tons of oxide ore in nearby National Forest canyons and streams, while processing an additional 121 million tons of sulfide ore - a 22% increase over the original plan.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ-07), in an August 13 letter to Vilsack, also called for the Forest Service to require Augusta to submit a new DEIS, citing the significant changes to the mining plan.
On Oct. 17, Rep. Ron Barber (AZ-08) wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who oversees the Forest Service, making the case that Augusta's changes have "significantly alter(ed) the original mining plan of operation" and that a new DEIS should be prepared.
Recently, Pima County's top administrator also demanded a new DEIS. The proposed mine is located in southern Pima County. "A new draft DEIS and public comment period are warranted for this project," Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry wrote in an Oct. 25 letter to Coronado National Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch.
Mounting opposition to the project comes at the same time Augusta has come under fire for a series of false or misleading statements the company is making to regulators, investors and the public about the proposed mine.
The following examples provide evidence that the company may be deceiving investors, regulators and Arizonans who would be affected by the proposed mine.
• Augusta has repeatedly - and wrongly - told the public and investors that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency only has an "advisory role" in issuing a water pollution permit that is prerequisite to beginning construction of the mine. The fact is that EPA, which opposes the plan submitted in the DEIS, has veto authority over the permit.
• Augusta officials have made conflicting statements about their plans to expand their mining operations to three additional claims on the western slope and ridgeline of the Santa Rita Mountains. Augusta CEO Gil Clausen told the Arizona Daily Star that "we don't intend to do any mining development there."
But in an August 28, 2012 feasibility study filed with Canadian regulators, Augusta states "mineralization is also known to occur at Broadtop Butte [one of the three claims], which could potentially be added as a satellite development." The feasibility study also highlights the presence of copper at the other two west side claims, leaving the door open for future mining at those locations.
• Augusta is making contradictory claims about whether or not it suspended engineering work on the mine in July 2011. Augusta stated in the August feasibility study that it suspended engineering work in July 2011. But the company stated in its 2011 annual report submitted to Canadian regulators that engineering work was ongoing "throughout 2011".
Download a copy of the release here.
For Further Information:
For Immediate Release:
November 2, 2012
Air permit for Rosemont Mine threatens public health and air quality
Letter from 130 Southern Arizona residents and organizations asks State to withdraw draft permit
(Tucson, Ariz.) A broad-based citizen’s coalition, citing threats to public health and air quality in southern Arizona, is calling on the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to withdraw a draft air quality permit for the proposed massive open-pit mine in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson.
An October 31 letter signed by 130 southern Arizona organizations and residents says that the draft permit is fatally flawed because, among other things, Rosemont made significant and substantial changes to its mining plan, after submitting its permit application, that will lead to dramatically higher levels of air pollution both at the site and in surrounding communities. The letter notes that "both ADEQ and the public will be better served by review and analysis of the actual project that Rosemont intends to build and operate, rather than a project that both [Rosemont Copper] and ADEQ knows will not be built."
The citizens' letter concludes by asking ADEQ to return jurisdiction over the permit to Pima County and to require Rosemont to submit a new application to Pima County that accurately reflects the company's current mining plan.
To further emphasize the potential threat to southern Arizona's air quality, SSSR also released a short video illustrating the risks posed by haboobs, or desert winds, which could sweep across Rosemont's massive "dry stack" waste dump and spread poisonous dust and debris across nearby communities, including Tucson.
A second letter prepared by technical experts for Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, a Tucson-based non-profit group opposed to the mine, provided detailed scientific analysis on the technical shortfalls of the draft air quality permit.
“There are so many problems related to the materials submitted by Rosemont (Copper Company) and the proposed language of the air permit, that ADEQ must not issue the proposed draft permit,” Green Valley residents Joel Fisher and Dr. Thomas Purdon conclude at the end of the 22-page technical report.
Mr. Fisher, PhD, has 50 years of experience in air pollution sciences, technologies and ecological and human health impacts. He worked as research scientist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and at the State Department for more than 26 years as a senior scientist and treaty officer for air pollution affairs.
Dr. Purdon is a Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Arizona and gynecology consultant for the United Community Health Centers of Arizona.
The two letters identify numerous shortcomings of the draft air quality permit including:
- The proposed air permit fails to consider the potential for Rosemont mine operations to emit hazardous air pollutants in excess of the thresholds set in the Clean Air Act;
- Arsenic and lead emissions from the mine require special regulatory controls that ADEQ did not include in the proposed permit;
- The permit fails to control the substantial and potentially dangerous amounts of particulate matter, especially “toxic dust,” that will be emitted from Rosemont's operations and its dry-stack tailings dump. Rosemont intends to build one of the largest dry-stack mine waste dumps in the world, which will bury canyons and streams on the Coronado National Forest under nearly 800 feet of arsenic and lead-laced mine debris;
- The draft permit incorrectly classifies the mine as a Class II air pollution source when its emission levels require it to be regulated as a Class I source, which requires stricter controls.
At the request of Rosemont Copper, ADEQ took air quality permitting for the mine away from Pima County last August and soon after issued the draft air quality permit. The public comment period closed October 31. ADEQ has indicated it will decide whether to issue a final air quality permit by mid-February.
[Editors Note: The comments can be downloaded from the SSSR website at:
The video can be viewed on SSSR’s YouTube page at:
You can also download a copy of this press release here. ]
Rare Arizona Snail One Step Closer To Endangered Species Act Protection
Sonoran Talussnail Yet Another Species Threatened by Proposed Rosemont Copper Mine
For Immediate Release - The Center for Biological Diversity, July 23, 2012
TUCSON, Ariz.— Southern Arizona’s Sonoran talussnail moved closer to Endangered Species Act protection today as part of a 2011 landmark legal settlement by the Center for Biological Diversity to speed protection decisions for 757 species around the country. Today’s positive “90-day finding” from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service kicks off a one-year review of the snails’ status to determine if it qualifies for federal protection. The Sonoran talussnail is found in the footprint of the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine near Tucson. If protected, it would become one of at least 10 endangered animals and plants threatened by the proposed mine, which will impact more than 145,000 acres of wildlife habitat.
Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681
“The Sonoran talussnail is yet another reason why the Rosemont Copper Mine shouldn’t be built. We’re thrilled that this fragile Arizona species is moving toward the Endangered Species Act protection that will save it from this disastrous mining project,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist with the Center.
The Center is working to protect more than a dozen imperiled species threatened by the mine. Last month the Center filed a lawsuit to gain Endangered Species Act protection for Coleman’s coralroot, a beautiful purple orchid growing on national forest land in the mine footprint. In 2010, the Center petitioned to protect the Rosemont talussnail and the Sonoran talussnail. The Rosemont talussnail is now on the candidate list for protections. Two additional rare plants threatened by the mine — Bartram stonecrop and beardless chinchweed — will get “90-day findings” by the end of the year as the result of the Center’s settlement with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
“The costs to endangered species, air quality and water supplies that would result from the Rosemont Mine are simply unacceptable. You can’t kill endangered species, produce 1,200 million tons of toxic waste and withdraw 33 billion gallons of water and claim to be a green company. There is simply no such thing as a sustainable mile-wide open pit copper mine,” said Curry.
The mine would destroy habitat for numerous endangered species including the Chiricahua leopard frog, Gila chub, Gila topminnow, Huachuca water umbel, jaguar, lesser long-nosed bat, ocelot, Pima pineapple cactus and southwestern willow flycatcher, and for candidate species including the desert tortoise, northern Mexican garter snake and western yellow-billed cuckoo.
“The diversity of the Rosemont area is significant on a global scale. The mine would be a disaster for hundreds of wildlife species and for quality of life for people around Tucson due to air, noise and water pollution and to loss of tourism and recreation dollars,” said Curry.
The mine still needs several permits to move forward, including an air-quality permit from Pima County that has already been denied once, and a Clean Water Act permit from the Army Corps of Engineers that is pending. The Coronado National Forest released a draft “environmental impact statement” for the mine in September, which has been severely criticized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as wholly inadequate and based on faulty science. In an extremely rare move, the EPA gave the impact statement the lowest possible rating and threatened to intervene if permitting for the mine proceeds.
Some of the most contentious issues surrounding the mine include impacts on drinking-water supplies. Concerns include impacts on existing wells in the area; plans to fill more than 150 stream drainages on the mine site; and a plan, yet untested in dry climates, to dry-stack waste tailings, a technique that critics fear will result in toxic pollutants leaching into groundwater during heavy rain events.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.