The EPA said in a letter this past week that deficiencies in critical Clean Water Act permit “could provide an adequate basis for permit denial”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week warned that Augusta Resource Corporation’s proposed Rosemont Copper Mine may not obtain a key water quality permit needed to build the mine because of its potential impacts on “aquatic resources of national importance”.
The EPA letter, sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, stated that the deficiencies in Rosemont’s Clean Water Act Section 404 application “could provide an adequate basis for permit denial…”. The mine cannot be built without the 404 permit.
The EPA letter identified six critical deficiencies in Augusta Resource’s water quality permit:
- An inadequate analysis of alternatives to ensure that the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative was chosen.
- Questionable hydrological assessments.
- No biological assessment (BA) to identify impacts on threatened or endangered species.
- Significant degradation of Arizona’s rare and fragile wetland resources.
- No plan to compensate for unavoidable impacts to waters of the United States.
- Negative impact on recreation, aesthetics, and ecotourism, a $2.95 billion regional economy.
The letter can be downloaded here: http://www.scenicsantaritas.org/20120213_EPA.pdf
This week’s letter follows an early January letter from EPA, which also highlighted these significant water quality issues. Augusta Resource dismissed EPA’s initial concerns, claiming EPA has merely an “advisory” role in an apparent effort to cast the regulatory challenges facing this project in a more favorable light to potential investors.
“The EPA letter underscores the significant environmental and economic devastation, particularly to our water resources, that would occur in southern Arizona if this mine is allowed to proceed,” said Error! Contact not defined., President of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, a Tucson-based citizen’s group opposed to the mine. “According to Augusta Resource’s PR spin, this mine would have already been operating for several years now. The EPA’s latest letter, however, makes its clear that the road ahead for the proposed Rosemont Mine is very tenuous at best.”
The Clean Water Act Sec. 404 permit is an essential regulatory approval and is separate from the Forest Service analysis of environmental impacts undertaken pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA.)