Army Corps says Rosemont Mine would violate Arizona clean water rules and seriously degrade federal washes


The Daily Star obtained a Dec. 28 letter from the Corps’ regional office in San Francisco to Hudbay that details the rationale behind the district’s recommendation. The Daily Star obtained the letter through a federal Freedom of Information Act request.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles district office, which last year recommended denial of Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals’ application for a federal Clean Water Act permit to construct the proposed Rosmont Mine, 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.

The letter states the district office concluded:

  • Rosemont Copper’s plan to buy, preserve and environmentally restore more than 4,800 acres to offset its impacts is inadequate.
  • Completion of what would be the U.S.’ third-largest copper mine would negatively affect surface water quality, sediment distribution and use of the area by humans and wildlife, including federally protected species.
  • Granting the permit would be against the general public interest. To approve a permit, the Corps must find that it would be in the public interest.

Col. Pete Helmlinger, commander of the Corps’ San Francisco-based South Pacific Division, will make the next decision on the $1.5 billion mine. Hudbay is seeking state and federal permits to construct the mile-wide, half-mile deep open-pit mine in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest 35 miles southeast of Tucson.

Hudbay can appeal a negative decision from Helmlinger to higher-ranking Corps officials.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has sent letters to the Army Corps repeatedly opposing the mine, can veto Corps approval of Hudbay’s request for a Section 404 Clean Water Act permit needed to construct the mine.

EPA has determined that the Upper Santa Cruz River groundwater sub-basin, where Rosemont would be located, provides 20 percent of the total groundwater recharge for the state’s water management area covering Tucson and its suburbs, the Daily Star reported.

Helmlinger’s Dec. 28 letter also states that “among the key public interest are adverse effects on cultural resources and traditional cultural properties important to tribes.”

The Tohono O’Odham tribe and others have warned that the mine would seriously damage artifacts and other cultural resources in the Santa Ritas, although the mining company has promised extensive mitigation, the Daily Star reported.

Hudbay sent two letters (Sept. 7,  and Nov. 17) to Helmlinger last year requesting additional information concerning the district’s denial recommendation and presenting its reasoning why the permit should be approved.

“We feel strongly that we should have an opportunity to respond to any technical concerns about the Project’s impacts and proposed mitigation prior to a decision on our permit application,” Hudbay vice-president for its Arizona business unit Patrick Merrin stated in the Sept. 7 letter.

The Corps offered Hudbay an opportunity to meet sometime this month to discuss technical issues related to the district’s denial recommendation, according to Helmlinger’s Dec. 28 letter.

Hudbay has stated the company plans to release an updated feasibility study for the Rosemont mine in the first quarter of this year. The company is reportedly preparing a revised mine plan of operations which could impact its application for the Clean Water Act permit.

If Hudbay’s CWA permit application changes, it may be sent back to the Corps’ L.A. office’s district engineer for evaluation and, potentially, for more analysis which could include consulting with other agencies and obtaining additional public comment, Helmlinger’s letter states.

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4 Responses to Army Corps says Rosemont Mine would violate Arizona clean water rules and seriously degrade federal washes

  1. Nancy Fahringer says:

    Hudbay’s CWA permit application must be denied if we will continue to have the necessary water for Southern Arizona, the watercourses vital for the area to continue to flourish, and for the surrounding communities. Population density continues to expand and water needs increase. Hudbay’s drain on the water resources of the area would adversely affect the Tucson basin. Congratulations for supporting this view.

  2. ALAN JOHNSON says:

    The article produced by the ARIZONA STAR dated January 14 , 2016 does not add any significant new information to the saga of HUDBAY’S application for a permit to develop the ROSEMONT PROJECT . It does however raise a number of questions .

    There are a number of government agencies including county , state and federal who have been , and still are , involved in the evaluation process . This evaluation process lacks transparency throughout . The ARMY CORP OF ENGINEERS are currently having their say on the application but appear divided on a technical decision vs a political dictum . The CLEAN WATER ACT permit is at the centre of contention between the head office of THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS IN SAN FRANCISCO and their SUB-OFFICE in LOS ANGELES .

    It appears that no new water data has been produced since AUGUSTA submitted its initial application . HUDBAY has spent millions of dollars on more drilling on the ROSEMONT PROPERTY but appear to have ignored the CLEAN WATER ACT . What data is the ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS using for their assessment ? It would appear that the data has remained the same as that submitted with the original application but the politics have changed . This process of data manipulation is commonly referred to as a ‘ RE-EVALUATION “.

    AUGUSTA lobbied the ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS through a law firm in LOS ANGELES going back to 2011 . AUGUSTA reportedly had weekly meetings with government agencies in order to pave the way for a successful permit application . HUDBAY has now endorsed this lobby group to serve its interests and to provide political influence in favour of permitting the ROSEMONT PROPERTY for mine development .

    It is not surprising that HUDBAY is preparing a new mine plan . They have spent millions of dollars on new drilling since buying the property from AUGUSTA . They have sold the processing and milling equipment purchased by AUGUSTA . The changes that HUDBAY brings to the ROSEMONT PROJECT are shrouded in secrecy .

    At the end of the day , the FOREST SERVICE is only a rubber stamp to decisions made at high political levels . The waters have become so muddy that the facts of the matter may never be known .

    Trump , if he survives office , will probably never become aware of the ROSEMONT SAGA .

  3. ALAN JOHNSON says:

    please correct my reference to January 14 , 2016 to January 14 , 2017 .

    My apologies and thank you .

  4. thomas stewart says:

    Good Golly Finally A Real American Patriot Pres Donald J. Trump Will Take A Look At This Clean Water Act, Hudbay Copper Mine Is Another USA Product!! Wake Up America!! God Bless America With Pres Donald J. Trump.