PHOENIX — Conservation groups applauded the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) decision to not pursue authority over a key provision of the federal Clean Water Act. The groups had submitted comments in November and throughout the stakeholder process, raising concerns about the ADEQ effectively enforcing this important provision in the law, which protects U.S. waterways from pollution, degradation, and disturbance by industrial and development projects. (Click here to read full release)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
PDF version can be downloaded here
TUCSON, Ariz.— Together, four conservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal district court today to overturn a key permit for the controversial proposed Rosemont Copper Mine in southern Arizona. The lawsuit challenges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ issuance of a Clean Water Act permit for the mine, which would threaten critical water resources and wildlife habitat.
“In spite of reports from multiple government agencies that the proposed Rosemont Mine does not comply with federal law, the Army Corps of Engineers has chosen to grant the federal Clean Water Act 404 permit,” said Gayle Hartmann, president of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas. “Because of this, we have no choice but to seek justice in federal court in support of our community, our health and our environment. We will move forward and present our case, reiterating the extensive damage this project will do to our water resources and our beautiful Santa Rita Mountains.”
Earlier this month the Corps reversed course from a 2016 determination and issued the final permit needed to start construction of the vast open-pit copper mine. Hudbay Minerals, Rosemont’s Canadian owner, wants to blast a mile-wide, half-mile-deep open pit in the Santa Rita Mountains and pile toxic mine tailings and waste rock hundreds of feet high in the Davidson Canyon-Cienega Creek watershed, which replenishes Tucson’s groundwater basin, a source for roughly 20 percent of Tucson’s drinking water.
More than 5,000 acres would be destroyed by the mine, including nearly 4,000 acres of public land that would be covered by the mine’s waste dumps, open pit, processing plant and infrastructure. The pit and waste dumps would remain as a permanent scar and environmental hazard on public land.
“The proposed Rosemont Mine would be a blight on the Santa Ritas and do serious harm to Outstanding Arizona Waters such as Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director for Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter. “The Corps has not considered the degree or scope of the impacts to wildlife, cultural resources, and other protected public lands in its decision, and it has not done its job to ensure that this project is in the public’s interest.”
The Rosemont Mine would drain the regional aquifer that supports dozens of springs and streams in the area that are home to endangered fish, frogs, snakes, birds and plants. It would also destroy thousands of acres of federally protected jaguar critical habitat and sever a critically important wildlife corridor essential to the recovery of the northern jaguar population that spans the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The Corps’ outrageous flip-flop on the Rosemont Clean Water Act permit is politics at its worst and cannot be justified by science or law,” said Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This decision to betray southern Arizona and greenlight this disaster won’t stand. We’ll fight for Tucson’s water security and the jaguars, ocelots and other wildlife that call the Santa Ritas home.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has weighed in against the Rosemont proposal numerous times over a period of several years, saying that the project would violate water-quality standards and was not in the public interest. In July 2016 the Corps’ own scientists determined that the permit should be denied, yet the Trump administration reversed course and issued the permit anyway.
“There is no better example of the failure of our government to provide effective protections from the harms of mining than the proposed Rosemont Mine,” said Roger Featherstone, director of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition. “This project is bad for communities, devastating to wildlife, and should not be allowed to proceed.”
The groups are represented by the Western Mining Action Project, a public-interest law firm specializing in litigation on mining issues in the western states, and Marc Fink and Allison Melton of the Center for Biological Diversity.
Save the Scenic Santa Ritas is a nonprofit organization working to protect the Santa Rita Mountains from environmental degradation caused by mining and mineral exploration activities.
Some of you have probably already received this notice from ADEQ, but for those who haven’t:
ADEQ will be hosting an all-day meeting regarding the Triennial Review of Surface Water Quality Standards on Thurs., May 10 in Room 222 of the northern State of Arizona Building at 400 W. Congress (this building is immediately west of Granada on the corner of Granada and Congress – map). There is parking on the west side of the building.
Of particularly interest to those of us fighting the Rosemont Mine is the portion of the agenda from 3-5 PM concerning the Outstanding Water issue. As you know, the proposed Rosemont Mine threatens Las Cienegas Creek, an Outstanding Arizona Water and Rosemont functionaries are deeply involved in this process.
Key elements of Rosemont water mitigation plan “commonly fail”
Noted expert reviews Rosemont habitat mitigation plan for essential water permit
(Tucson, Ariz.) Save the Scenic Santa Ritas (SSSR) today released a new report debunking claims by Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals, Inc. that the water resource impacts of its proposed Rosemont Mine can be mitigated.
Internationally recognized water expert Dr. Mathias Kondolf was retained by SSSR to analyze Hudbay’s proposed Sonoita Creek restoration plan that is part of Hudbay’s Final Habitat Mitigation and Monitoring Plan for the proposed open-pit copper mine planned for the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest in southeastern Arizona.
The Habitat Mitigation plan is an essential component of Hudbay’s Sec. 404 permit application for the Rosemont project. Hudbay must demonstrate that its mitigation plan will satisfactorily mitigate the extensive impacts of its proposed mine to affected regional water resources. SSSR submitted Kondolf’s report to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its review prior to the Corps’ pending decision on whether to issue the 404 permit.
Dr. Kondolf is a Professor of Environmental Planning at the University of California, Berkeley and is a noted expert on wetlands and river restoration. Kondolf previously reviewed Hudbay’s earlier Sonoita Creek mitigation plan and found that plan to be inadequate as well.
Hudbay subsequently modified its Sonoita Creek plan, which Kondolf analyzed for SSSR.
Kondolf’s key findings include:
- The type of project Hudbay proposes for Sonoita Creek “commonly fail.” The plan involves a massive earth-moving project to create a new channel. Kondolf determined that consistent with “geomorphic principles and experience with similar artificial channel reconstructions elsewhere,” the new channel would very likely wash out…” during the initial moderate flows.
- Hudbay’s proposed mitigation project would fill a portion of the existing Sonoita Creek channel, which is classified as a “Waters of the U.S.,” without corresponding mitigation. Contrary to the mining company’s assertions, Hudbay’s Sonoita Creek mitigation component is not demonstrably “ecologically superior” to this resource’s current condition.
- The new channel Hudbay is proposing to build “would destroy existing riparian habitat, and fill material generated from the excavation would be spoiled on existing riparian habitat, also without mitigation.”
The Kondolf report is just the latest criticism leveled against the Rosemont project and its impacts on the scarce water resources in southern Arizona.
The Corps has long expressed serious concerns about the mile-wide, half-mile deep mine that would dump waste rock and tailings on more than 2,500 acres of Coronado National Forest, stating that Hudbay’s previous water mitigation plan was inadequate. The Corps’ Los Angeles district office recommended that the essential Sec. 404 permit be denied in July 2016. The Corps’ South Pacific Division, located in San Francisco, is currently reviewing Hudbay’s application.
In 2016, Pima County, where the mine is located, formally requested that the Army Corps deny the 404 permit. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has also issued letters to the Army Corps stating that the mine project should not move forward because of the lack of adequate mitigation.
The 404 permit is the last major permit Hudbay needs before it can begin construction on the mine proposed to be built in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest 30 miles southeast of Tucson.
[Editors Note: Copy of the Kondolf report can be downloaded here]
Save the Scenic Santa Ritas is a non-profit, community organization working to protect the Santa Rita and Patagonia Mountains from environmental degradation caused by mining and mineral exploration activities. For more information, go to ScenicSantaRitas.org, RosemontMineTruth.com, Facebook, and Twitter.
(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 plans has been offered since that time.