The EPA concludes Rosemont Copper Mine fails to meet regulatory requirements needed for Clean Water Act permit

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals’ environmental mitigation plan for the proposed $1.9 billion Rosemont Copper Mine fails to address its impacts to southern Arizona’s water resources and fails to meet regulatory requirements under the Clean Water Act.

Hudbay’s 859-page mitigation plan is its latest attempt to salvage efforts to obtain a Section 404 Clean Water Act permit from the Army Corps.  The 404 permit is the last major permit needed before construction could begin on what would be the third largest open pit copper mine in the United States.

The  EPA’s 77-page assessment puts significant pressure on the Army Corps to reject the permit, which is under review by Army Corps’ San Francisco regional office. The EPA has veto authority over Corps permitting for Section 404 Clean Water Act permits.

The Army Corps’ Los Angeles district office recommended against issuing the 404 permit in July 2016 because of shortfalls in a previous version of Hudbay’s mitigation plan. The district determined the project would “cause or contribute to” violations of Arizona water quality standards and trigger “significant degradation” of federally regulated washes, the Arizona Daily Star reported on Jan. 14, 2017. The Army Corps notified Hudbay of the shortfalls in a Dec. 28, 2016, letter. Continue reading

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Expert: Hudbay’s environmental mitigation plan needed for key federal permit to build $1.9 billion Rosemont mine is likely to fail

Hudbay Minerals’ primary mitigation project needed to obtain the federal Clean Water Act permit necessary to construct the $1.9 billion Rosemont Copper Mine is based on a misleading scientific analysis and fails to offset for the loss of desert aquatic resources that would be destroyed by the massive open-pit mine, according to an analysis by a leading expert on rivers and wetlands.

G. Mathias Kondolf, a University of California Professor of Environmental Planning and an internationally-known expert on hydrology and river restoration, prepared the report for Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, a Tucson-based conservation group opposed to the Rosemont mine. SSSR released the report in a Jan. 4 press release.

Kondolf’s Dec. 29, 2017 report was submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is currently reviewing Hudbay’s application for a Section 404 Clean Water Act permit needed to construct the massive open-pit mine.

The Corps cannot legally issue the 404 permit unless Hudbay provides sufficient mitigation to compensate for the destruction of aquatic resources in the Cienega Creek watershed that will result from construction of the mile-wide, half-mile deep open pit and dumping of waste rock and mine tailings on more than 2,500 acres of the Coronado National Forest.

The Corps’ Los Angeles district office recommended denying the permit in July 2016, in part, because Hudbay failed to provide adequate environmental mitigation. The Corps’ San Francisco regional office is currently reviewing Hudbay’s application. Continue reading

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Conservation group demands public review of new Rosemont water mitigation plan

Save the Scenic Santa Ritas (SSSR), a Tucson-based conservation group, has requested the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the new mitigation plan submitted by Hudbay Minerals before the Corps makes a final decision on whether to issue a federal Clean Water Act Section 404 permit required for construction of the proposed Rosemont mine.

SSSR’s request was included in a Dec. 11 letter sent to Brig. General D. Peter Helmlinger, Commander of the South Pacific Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The last time the public had an opportunity to review and comment on a mitigation plan for the proposed Rosemont mine was 2011. At that time, the public reviewed a 6-page conceptual plan.

The current 859-page plan submitted in September of this year includes 3 features: one that was ruled out in the 2011 plan, one that is a completely new concept, and one that is substantially revised. The public has had no opportunity to review and comment on the current plan that is supposed to mitigate the very significant impacts that would occur to Outstanding Waters of Arizona and waters of the United States if the mine is approved. Continue reading

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Pima County says Rosemont’s Clean Water Act mitigation application violates federal law and must be revised

Pima County is warning state and federal environmental regulators that Hudbay Minerals’ application for a Clean Water Act permit needed for its proposed Rosemont Mine violates federal law because it fails to describe the actual mitigation the company is planning.

In letters to the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry states that Hudbay’s new plans to make major modifications to Sonoita Creek in an attempt to compensate for damages to desert riparian waterways that will be destroyed by the Rosemont open-pit mine requires public notice and an opportunity to comment.

“The Corps must issue a new public notice because the current (Clean Water Act) application does not properly describe the mitigation activities proposed,” Huckelberry writes.

Hudbay announced in September plans for a “complete restoration” of Sonoita Creek and its floodplain. The restoration project includes dredging and filling of nine acres of federally-protected waters in Sonoita Creek. Continue reading

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Tohono O’odham Nation demands consultation with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Hudbay’s Rosemont Mine project

The Tohono O’odham Nation is demanding that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers engage in “government-to-government” consultations with the tribe before deciding whether to issue a crucial Clean Water Act permit needed to construct Toront0-based Hudbay Minerals proposed $1.9 billion Rosemont copper mine.

“The Corps must consult with the Nation regarding its ongoing review of the permit, including all the reasons articulated in the (Corps’) Los Angeles District’s decision recommending denial of the permit,” attorneys for  Earthjustice, which is representing the Nation, stated in a detailed 42-page letter.

Consultation would allow the Nation to provide additional legal and scientific support to a July 2016 recommendation by the Corps’ district office to deny the Section 404 Clean Water Act (CWA) permit for the proposed open pit that would be blasted into the northeast slope of the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest southeast of Tucson.

The mine, which could be come the third largest open pit copper mine in the United States, cannot be built without the permit.

The Nation’s Nov. 28 letter was sent to Col. D. Peter Helmlinger, Division Commander of the Corps’ South Pacific Division based in San Francisco, which is reviewing the District’s denial recommendation. Continue reading

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