Opponents expected to file federal lawsuit challenging decision
(TUCSON, Ariz) The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today overturned an earlier agency recommendation to deny a Clean Water Act permit for the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine and instead approved the last remaining permit needed to construct the massive open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest southeast of Tucson.
Army Corps Brigadier General D. Peter Helmlinger rejected a July 2016 recommendation by the Corp’s Los Angeles district to deny the Sec. 404 Clean Water Act permit for Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals Inc.’s $1.9 billion Rosemont mine.
The permit authorizes Hudbay to dump millions of tons of potentially toxic mine wastes on more the 2,500 acres of Coronado National Forest. The waste rock and mine tailings will obliterate desert washes and streams that provide significant recharge to the ground water supplies relied upon by residents of the Tucson metropolitan area.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Corps of Engineers apparently rejected the recommendation from their own District Engineers and years of technical analysis by the Corps, EPA, and many other agencies and entities,” said David Steele, spokesperson for Save the Scenic Santa Ritas. “Make no mistake about it – the pr spin and regulatory gymnastics that occurred to get to this decision do not change the fact that this mine is bad for southern Arizona. We are committed to continuing to fight it.”
Today’s decision represents a dramatic reversal by the U.S. Army Corps. In late 2016, General Helmlinger, wrote to Hudbay laying out that agency’s rationale for denying the permit. In the letter, he said:
In this case [the Rosemont Section 404 permit], the [Corps’ Los Angeles] District concluded that implementation of the proposed project would cause or contribute to violations of state water quality standards, and that minimization and mitigation measures, along with proposed monitoring were inadequate to ensure that degradation did not occur. The District further concluded that implementation of the proposed project would result in significant degradation of waters of the United States, as a result of a substantial reduction of functions and services and that the project would contribute to the degradation of Outstanding Arizona Waters.
The Corps’ decision also ignores serious concerns raised by Pima County, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, the Tohono O’odham Nation, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, the Hopi Tribe, and a coalition of numerous Arizona conservation organizations. The EPA is on the record stating the mine should not be constructed as proposed. As recently as November 2017, the EPA strongly criticized Rosemont’s proposed Habitat Mitigation and Management Plan (HMMP), a key component of the mining company’s permit package. The EPA said, “[o]ur review of the HMMP affirms our position that the mitigation does not comply with EPA’s 404(b)(1) Guidelines and the requirements of the Mitigation Rule. The HMMP proposed by Rosemont fails to offset the proposed mine’s impacts to aquatic resources in the Cienega Creek watershed.”
The Corps decision is subject to challenge in federal courts. Opponents of the mine have vowed that they will pursue all legal means including litigation to stop the mine.
[Editors Note: Click here for additional information regarding the regulatory record concerning the proposed Rosemont Mine.]
Save the Scenic Santa Ritas is a non-profit organization consisting of a coalition of business, homeowner, and conservation and recreational organizations working to protect the Santa Rita Mountains from the environmental degradation caused by mining and mineral exploration.