Conservation group demands public review of new Rosemont water mitigation plan

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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.

Additionally, SSSR notes that there is significant new information and important errors in the Forest Service’s EIS which must be analyzed before the Corps makes a decision.

As SSSR’s letter states, the Corps is required to prepare an SEIS when:

  1. There is a substantial change to the proposed action that is relevant to environmental concerns;
  2. There is significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts; or
  3. 
When preparing an SEIS would further the purposes of the National Environmental Policy Act.

“In this instance, as we discuss below, all three criteria are triggered,” SSSR President Gayle Hartmann states in the letter. “The SEIS should be prepared and filed as a draft SEIS, made available for public comment and then filed as a (final) EIS.”

SSSR requested the Corps to “prepare and circulate for review and public comment a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) prior to making a decision regarding issuance of a Section 404 permit under the Clean Water Act for the proposed Rosemont copper mine.”

As SSSR’s letter notes, the Corps’ Los Angeles District Engineer recommended denial of the 404 permit because its mitigation plan failed to compensate for the destruction of federal waters and because the proposed mine was not in the public interest, citing, in part, its impact on tribal cultural resources.

SSSR has opposed various attempts to construct the Rosemont Mine since 1996. The mine would destroy more than 2,500 acres of Coronado National Forest and more than 100 miles of desert streams, washes, seeps and springs that provide significant recharge to Tucson’s groundwater drinking supplies.

SSSR’s letter is the third request from major opponents of the proposed mile-wide, half-mile deep open pit mine to the Corps to consider additional information before deciding on Hudbay’s request for the Section 404 permit.

The Tohono-O’0dham Nation in November demanded that the Corps engage in formal consultation with the tribe over the cultural and environmental impacts of the mine. Last week, Pima County warned the Corps that Hudbay’s application for the 404 permit was outdated and in violation of federal law.

Rosemont opponents have already filed two federal lawsuits seeking to block the mine. Last month, SSSR and three other groups filed suit alleging the U.S. Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act and other federal laws when it issued a final record of decision approving the mine.

That suit came 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.

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3 Responses to Conservation group demands public review of new Rosemont water mitigation plan

  1. Why has no one pointed out that apparently to Hudbay Minerals and certain U.S. governmental agencies monetary profit is significantly more important than the well being of the environment (animals, plants, etc.) and affected humans?

  2. Nancy Holmes says:

    Keep up the good work SSSR & all other groups opposing this mine! Thanks for all of your hard work on behalf of those of us living in this area, particularly! We applaud your efforts!!! This Hudbay mining company sounds like it has taken lessons from the Republicans in the US congress in trying to jam a verrrrry unpalatable situation down our throats as citizens of this country!!!

  3. ALAN JOHNSON says:

    THERE IS OBVIOUS OPPOSITION TO TO HUDBAY’S PLAN TO MINE THE ROSEMONT COPPER PROSPECT . WHILE THERE IS A PLAN , IT APPEARS MORE LEGAL AND POLITICAL THAN TECHNICAL . THE PLAN CONTINUES TO BE BOUNCED AROUND IN A MAZE OF GOVERNMENT AGENCIES WHO AGREE TO DISAGREE ON JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING . EVERYONE , BUT NO ONE IS TAKING THE LEAD ROLE IN THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS . TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE , THE PUBLIC IS BEING KEPT IN THE DARK . THIS IS WRONG , WRONG , WRONG .

    PRESSURE MUST BE BROUGHT TO BEAR IN ORDER THAT ALL DOCUMENTATION IS ON ” OPEN FILE ” FOR ALL TO SEE . THE ORIGINAL APPLICATION WAS SUBMITTED BY AUGUSTA AND MODIFIED BY HUDBAY TO SUIT ITS PRIORITIES . THE HUDBAY VERSION OF THE APPLICATION FOR A PERMIT HAS NEVER COME UNDER PUBLIC SCRUTINY YET THE FOREST SERVICE PROCEEDED TO APPROVE THE APPLICATION AND ISSUE A PERMIT . AS A RESULT , THE FOREST SERVICE APPEARS TO HAVE NO FURTHER ROLE TO PLAY IN THE SAGA .

    THERE ARE CURRENTLY SEVERAL LEGAL CHALLENGES TO HUDBAY’S PROPOSED PLAN TO DEVELOP THE ROSEMONT COPPER PROSPECT . WOULDN’T IT BE MORE EFFECTIVE TO HAVE THESE CHALLENGES ENJOINED AND COMBINED WITH A PETITION SIGNED BY ALL CONCERNED MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC ? THERE IS ALWAYS STRENGTH IN NUMBERS .