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Myth: The permitting process for the proposed Rosemont Mine is taking too long.
FACT: First and most importantly, the devastating environmental impacts of the proposed Rosemont Mine are PERMANENT. Rosemont is proposing to dig an open-pit mine that is a half-mile deep and a mile rim-to-rim in the northern Santa Rita Mountains and pile potentially toxic mine waste 600-800 feet high in a watershed that provide 20% of the groundwater recharge for the Tucson basin.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department said that the proposed Rosemont Mine will “render the northern portion of the Santa Rita Mountains virtually worthless as wildlife habitat and as a functioning ecosystem…”
Any amount of time it takes to permit this mine, is inconsequential compared to the length of the impact on the lives of future generations.
Secondly, the actions and inactions of Rosemont and its owners are the major reason for the length of the permitting process for this project.
- Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals Inc., the owner of the Rosemont project, has failed to submit a mitigation plan to compensate for the destruction of wetlands, springs and seeps and important, functioning aquatic resources that meets the Clean Water Act’s requirements under Section 404 of the law. As a result, the Corps’ Los Angeles District Engineer last July recommended that the agency deny this required Clean Water Act permit consistent with repeated warnings by state and federal agencies that the project fails to comply with the law.
- According to published reports in September 2012 (click here), the Coronado National Forest Supervisor requested that his staff review the veracity of information provided to it by Rosemont Copper Company. Specifically, as noted in the article, Rosemont provided information to the Coronado National Forest in early July indicating that dramatic increases in copper reserves would not result in additional water use, truck traffic or air pollution. However, in a subsequent September 12 letter to the Forest Supervisor, Rosemont backpedaled on some of those earlier assertions, thus leading to further questions about the company’s credibility and requiring that more staff resources be employed to investigate these discrepancies.
- In August 2012, Augusta Resource released plans to significantly modify its mine proposal in an updated “Feasibility Study.” The Forest Service cited Augusta’s new plan as a reason to postpone the release of a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and require additional analysis. (Source: click here)
Repeatedly throughout the regulatory consideration of the Rosemont Mine, agency staff criticized Augusta and Rosemont for not providing essential information in a timely manner. Consider these examples from documents released pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
- August 3, 2010 email from the Forest Service’s Debby Kriegel to colleagues said that, “[u]nfortunately, the DEIS schedule and Rosemont’s continued dawdling (we’ve been asking them since January to fund someone to develop recommendations for tree planting) [emphasis in the original] mean that this mitigation measure won’t show up in the DEIS.”
- Notes from a July 27, 2010 Rosemont Team Meeting – The Forest Service noted during a Rosemont Team Meeting that Rosemont was late in providing certain required products was going to delay the project. Specifically, in the meeting notes regarding “Decisions Made” the Forest Service said that “[v]isual analysis- late products from RCC [Rosemont Copper Company] will extend project timeline”
- Notes from a February 2010 Forest Service Rosemont Project Team Meeting – The Forest Service included a specific topic on the meeting outline noting “Timeline delays” and listed the “Reports needed from Rosemont”.
- Notes from an August 11, 2009 Forest Service Rosemont Project Team Meeting – One of the topic discussed included, “Schedule slippage – possible reason include financial negotiation with RCC.”
- Notes from an April 28, 2009 Forest Service Rosemont Project Team Meeting – Under “Topics Discussed” “Alternative and where to go next: Still waiting on Rosemont, SWCA [emphasis in the original] can continue work…” [Note: SWCA is the Forest Service’s NEPA consultant for the Rosemont Project.]
- Notes from a March 24, 2009 Forest Service Rosemont Project Team Meeting – it was noted that with respect to alternatives, that only brainstorming could occur “because team is still waiting on vital reports.” Also, it was decided that the “Forest needs to document repeated requests for reports.”
Source: Forest Service documents (click here.)
Thus, the examples cited above make it clear that Rosemont itself bears considerable responsibility for the length of time the permitting process has taken.
May 8, 2017
Remaining Permits and Decisions Needed by Rosemont
As of April, 2013
Rosemont Copper has repeatedly claimed that the company needs only “one more permit” before it can begin blasting its massive open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains near Tucson. They’re not telling the truth. Before the Rosemont mine can ever proceed, complex and critically important permits with strict regulatory provisions to mitigate the major impacts this project poses to southern Arizona’s water supplies, air quality and economy must first be issued. If regulators conclude that Rosemont cannot mitigate these impacts, they can refuse to issue these permits. Alternatively, if the agencies find that data and modeling for the permits is inaccurate or incomplete they can require Rosemont to redo its analysis.
Every open-pit copper mine that’s ever been dug has polluted the air and nearby water supplies with mercury, lead, arsenic or other poisons. The Rosemont Mine would not be any different.
• The US Forest Service has yet to complete a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and issue a Record of Decision. In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency gave the Rosemont’s 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 Clean Water Act permit that allows Rosemont to pollute area waterways is still pending with the US Army Corps of Engineers. 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) is assessing whether the Rosemont Mine would jeopardize nearly a dozen threatened and endangered species, including the jaguar, ocelot and southwestern willow flycatcher before it issues its Biological Opinion. The FWS is also in the process of designating critical habitat for both the jaguar 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 Arizona Department of Environmental Quality in 2012 is still under appeal. The appeal is on the grounds that it fails to protect area groundwater supplies. The Water Quality Appeals Board has not yet ruled on the appeal.
• The air pollution permit issued by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) in January 2013 has been appealed. This appeal is on the grounds that Rosemont manipulated data in its modeling to underestimate air pollution from the mine and pulled a bait and switch by announcing that it would operate under a different mining plan than the one submitted to ADEQ.
• The Forest Service must also consult with the State Historic Preservation Officer and, potentially, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. This process ensures that the proposed Rosemont Mine doesn’t adversely affect historic and cultural sites, including traditional lands of the Tohono O’odham Nation and other Native American Tribes.
The deadline to submit comments to ADEQ on Rosemont’s proposed air quality permit has passed. If you would like to view the comments submitted by SSSR and our broader coalition, they may be downloaded here: SSSR Comments to ADEQ on the proposed Rosemont Air Quality Permit