An update on the permitting process for the proposed Rosemont mine (April 2012)
In response to the ADEQ issuing the permit on aquifer pollution standards, Gayle Hartmann, SSSR President, made the following statement: “ADEQ issuing a permit for Rosemont comes as no surprise. It is unfortunate but true, that, at present, the state Department of Environmental Quality is not an independent body. It is heavily influenced by an extreme state legislature that neither cares about nor understands the damage that this mine would do the water resources of the Santa Cruz and Cienega basins. Fortunately, receiving this permit does not mean that the mine can begin operation. The mine’s plan of operation is in violation of Federal Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act standards. The Federal agencies that enforce those acts are much more objective than the state DEQ. Thus, it is very unlikely that the mine will receive the necessary Federal permits.” Individuals, organizations and agencies who submitted comments have the chance to appeal ADEQ’s decision by May 10th.
Other permits still needed by Rosemont:
Forest Service Record of Decision (ROD)
Perhaps the most important permit the proposed mine still needs to get is the decision from the Forest Service whether or not to allow Rosemont to use roughly 3,500 acres of Forest Service land (our public land) as a dumping ground for waste rock and tailings. In 2008 the Coronado National Forest began the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process to analyze the proposal submitted by Rosemont Copper Company – Mine Plan of Operations. 11,000 public comments were sent in during the scoping process in 2008, and an additional 25,000 comments were submitted during the public comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in late 2011. The EPA recently weighed in on the DEIS, saying it was one of the worst such statements they had reviewed, and that it underestimates the project’s environmental effects. The EPA said they believe the project should not proceed as proposed, and the information provided in the Draft EIS is inadequate to meet the purposes of NEPA, and that these inadequacies be circulated for full public review in a revised or supplemental Draft EIS prior to the issuance of any decision regarding the project.
Section 404 Permit of the Clean Water Act – Army Corps of Engineers
Perhaps the second-most important permit the proposed mine still requires is a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. This permit establishes a program to regulate the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States. Unlike the Forest Service, the Army Corps of Engineers clearly has the ability to deny this permit if they decide the project would negatively impact Davidson Canyon, a designated Outstanding Water of the United States. Additionally, the EPA has veto power over the ACOE. In a letter dated Feb. 13, 2012, the EPA stated that permit approval would have “substantial and unacceptable impacts to ‘aquatic resources of national importance’ (ARNI), including Cienega Creek and Davidson Canyon” and if unresolved, could provide an adequate basis for permit denial under the regulations in any environmental setting impacting waters of the U.S.
Air Quality Permit – Pima County Department of Environmental Quality
Under the U.S. Clean Air Act, Rosemont Copper needs an Air Emissions Permit. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency delegates authority to the Arizona Dept. of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) which in turn delegates authority for permitting to Pima County Dept of Environmental Quality. Rosemont submitted the permit application in September, 2010, and Pima County denied the permit in October of 2011, and upheld their decision in December of 2011 after the decision had been appealed by the company. It is unknown at this time whether ADEQ will take over the permit, whether Rosemont will take legal action against the agency’s decision, or just reapply.
Arizona Corporation Commission approval of TEP 138-kV line
While the Arizona Corporation Commission conditionally approved the transmission line that would service the proposed Rosemont project in March of 2012, the Commission voted 5-0 to delay the approval for at least one more public hearing and more evidence-gathering, which opens the door to testimony, previously excluded, about the mine’s overall environmental impacts. The public hearing has yet to be scheduled.
Canadian-based Augusta Resources proposes constructing a massive open-pit copper mine in Southern Arizona. The proposed mine would sit on approximately 4,500 acres of the 14,000-acre Rosemont Ranch in the Santa Rita Mountains just south of Tucson. The Rosemont Mine would negatively impact the economy and environment of Southern Arizona. Augusta Resources has never operated a mine and the Rosemont project would be its first attempt at doing so.
There is unprecedented non-partisan opposition to the Rosemont Mine. Political, business and environmental leaders have joined with citizens from all walks to oppose this project.
Augusta Resource is a publicly-traded corporation, headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. To fund the Rosemont Mine, Augusta has received financing from Japanese and Canadian interests. According to Augusta, the copper extracted from Southern Arizona would likely be sold to China with the profits going to a Canadian company and its international investors.
Historically, Augusta is a company that only undertakes exploration, acquisition, and development of mineral resources. Augusta does not operate mines or produce any mineral product. If the Rosemont Mine is approved, it would be Augusta’s first foray into mine operations and Southern Arizona would be its test subject. Alternatively, Augusta could obtain sufficient regulatory approvals to operate the mine and then sell its interests to an unknown entity.
Augusta Resource is taking advantage of a law signed by President Ulysses S. Grant intended to encourage development of the western U.S. The Mining Law of 1872 has profound impacts on western public lands. This law allows anyone to stake a claim on public lands, pay a nominal fee each year, and conduct mining operations. Many of the mines developed as a result of this law generate millions of dollars in profits for private mining companies without any royalties being paid to taxpayers.
Using the 1872 Mining Law, Augusta Resources is proposing to conduct mining operations on the Coronado National Forest. This is a bad deal for the environment, a bad deal for taxpayers and a bad deal for Arizona