State environmental regulator moving to take over federal Clean Water Act permit decision needed for Rosemont Mine

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Arizona environmental regulators are taking steps to take control of a crucial federal permitting process in what appears to be an attempt to circumvent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ongoing review of Hudbay Mineral’s Clean Water Act permit application for its proposed Rosemont open-pit copper mine.  Beyond Rosemont, state control of this program could have far-reaching implications to many other projects that could impact Arizona’s water resource.

In an email to stakeholders, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Quality Division is holding a special meeting on taking over issuing federal Clean Water Act permits at 1 p.m., Monday, Dec. 4, at the agency’s headquarters at 1110 W. Washington St., Phoenix in room 250. The public may also attend the meeting by calling 240-454-0879 with access code 282-719-829.

“The meeting will discuss state assumption of the Clean Water Act Section 404 dredge and fill program,” the ADEQ stated in an email.

The Army Corps is currently reviewing Hudbay’s 404 permit application. Hudbay needs the permit because its proposed mine would destroy federal desert waterways. The company must provide adequate mitigation from the damage it will cause in order for the permit to be legally issued.

The Corps’ Los Angeles district office recommended the permit be denied in July 2016. The Corps’ regional office is currently reviewing Hudbay’s permit application. 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 mitigation plan was inadequate. Continue reading

Posted in Clean Water Act, General, Hudbay, water | 1 Comment

Environmentalists file second federal lawsuit challenging Hudbay’s proposed Rosemont Mine

Four conservation groups filed suit in U.S. District Court Monday in Tucson seeking to overturn the U.S. Forest Service’s approval of Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals Inc.’s proposed Rosemont copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest 30 miles south of Tucson.

The suit comes two months after the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s issuance of a biological report that concluded the mine would not have a significant impact on endangered species including the jaguar.

The report, known as a “biological opinion”, cleared the way for the Coronado National Forest Service to approve the mine earlier this year when it issued a final “record of decision” declaring that mile-wide, half-mile deep open pit mine complied with environmental laws and regulations and should proceed. The newest lawsuit alleges the Forest Service violated numerous state and federal laws when it issue the record of decision.

The $1.9 billion mine is expected to produce about 240 million pounds of copper a year and would employ about 400 permanent workers. The mine would rely on groundwater pumped from wells near the Santa Cruz River west of the Santa Rita Mountains. The entire project is expected to span 30 years.

The mine would dump huge amounts of rock and mine tailings on about 2,500 acres of Coronado National Forest. Another 1,500 acres would be impacted by mine infrastructure and the open pit, which would be dug primarily on private land.  More than 5,000 acres would be permanently closed to the public. Continue reading

Posted in EIS, General, Hudbay, Litigation | 1 Comment

Pima County challenges Hudbay’s efforts to reduce significance of desert streams near proposed Rosemont Mine

Pima County is challenging Hudbay Minerals attempts to have federal regulators reclassify two desert streams that will be impacted by its proposed Rosemont Mine as fleeting, short-lived, watercourses rather than as intermittent waterways that have continuous water for extended periods.

The distinction is crucial as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reviews Hudbay’s application for a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit for the massive open pit copper mine planned in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest southeast of Tucson.

Reducing the amount of water in Barrel Canyon and Davidson Canyon could potentially allow Hudbay to reduce the amount of mitigation it must provide in order to obtain the CWA permit. The $1.9 billion mine cannot be constructed without the permit.

Hudbay’s efforts to obtain the permit have run into opposition from the Army Corps because its mitigation plans have not fully compensated for the loss of desert waterways. In July 2016, the Army Corps Los Angeles district office recommended denying Hudbay’s permit application. The Corps regional office is currently reviewing Hudbay’s application.

Rather than fully mitigate the damage it will cause to desert aquatic resources, Hudbay and its contractors are attempting to reduce the significance of the desert waterways by classifying them as “ephemeral”, which means they only have water for brief periods of time. Continue reading

Posted in Clean Water Act, Hudbay, water | 2 Comments

Confident it will withstand legal challenges, Hudbay getting finances in place to construct $1.9 billion Rosemont Mine

Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals Inc. is taking significant financial steps to free up cash in anticipation of receiving final government approvals to begin construction on its proposed $1.9 billion Rosemont Mine and is confident the company will withstand all legal challenges to its permits, according to financial reports and statements by company officials.

“We’re feeling very well positioned now,” Hudbay Chief Financial Officer David Bryson told stock analysts during a Nov. 2 conference call related to Hudbay’s 3rd quarter earnings.

Bryson said the company’s recent stock offering along with profitable mining operations in Peru and Manitoba has put the company in good position to finance construction of Rosemont. The company raised $242 million in September by selling 24 million shares of common stock.

“Obviously, we have an underlying business,” Bryson said. “It’s capable of generating substantial amount of cash flow over what would be Rosemont’s likely construction period.” Continue reading

Posted in Clean Water Act, Hudbay, Investors, water | 4 Comments

State regulators refuse to post Rosemont’s mitigation plan while extending the public comment period 14 days

[Editors Note:  The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has now posted the updated Rosemont Mitigation Plan.]

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has extended the public comment period on a crucial mitigation plan for the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine but continues to refuse to publish the proposal on its website.

Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, a Tucson citizens group opposed to the mine,  on Oct. 19 requested that the ADEQ to make the mitigation plan available on its website so that the public could provide informed comments and to extend the comment period 60 days from the day the mitigation plan is posted.

The ADEQ responded to SSSR on Oct. 24 and extended the public comment 14 days until Nov. 20. The ADEQ also stated in an email to SSSR President Gayle Hartmann that documents related to the mitigation plan were posted on its website. The ADEQ, however, has not posted the actual mitigation plan specifically requested by SSSR. Continue reading

Posted in Clean Water Act, Groundwater, Hudbay, water | 1 Comment