EPA recommends rejection of Rosemont Copper’s Clean Water Act permit application for its proposed massive open-pit mine

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is recommending denial of  Rosemont Copper Company’s Clean Water Act permit application pending before the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

The Tucson-based citizen’s group Save the Scenic Santa Ritas released  a copy of EPA’s Nov. 7 letter  to the Army Corps Wednesday afternoon through a press release posted on PRNewswire.

The EPA states that Rosemont’s proposed wetlands mitigation plan to compensate for the loss of jurisdictional waters of the United States is “insufficient to avoid ‘significant degradation’ of the aquatic ecosystem.”

The federal water permit is necessary before construction can begin on the proposed massive open pit mine south of Tucson. Rosemont Copper is owned by Vancouver, B.C.-based Augusta Resource Corporation.

“Based on the information currently available, (Rosemont’s) permit application does not appear to comply with (federal clean water protection guidelines) and should not be permitted as proposed,” Jane Diamond, EPA Region IX’s water division director states in the letter to Col. Kim Colloton of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The EPA’s objections to issuing the Clean Water Permit could deliver a fatal blow to the proposed copper project because the agency has veto authority over Clean Water Act permits issued by the Army Corps.

The EPA’s latest objections to Rosemont’s Clean Water Act permit application comes at the same time Augusta Resource is running out of cash and borrowing money from investors and officers to meet its financial obligations.

The proposed Rosemont copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest southeast of Tucson would impact the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Las Cienegas National Conservation Area and Pima County’s Cienega Creek Natural Preserve.

The EPA notes that the “Las Cienegas NCA was established by Congress and the President, in large part, to conserve, protect and enhance the unique and nationally important aquatic, wildlife, vegetation and riparian resources such as those in the Cienega Creek watershed.”

The BLM has also warned in comments submitted to the U.S. Forest Service in response to an administrative draft of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the mining project that it intends to defend its water rights at the national conservation area that could be impacted by the proposed mine.

“BLM does not relinquish existing BLM surface and groundwater rights,” the agency repeated six times in its comments on the preliminary FEIS.

The EPA states the mile-wide, half-mile deep open pit will act as a hydrological sink that will draw down ground water levels that support wetlands, marshes and streams in the conservation area.

“The pit will permanently reverse the natural direction of groundwater flow toward and into the mine pit, and away from the sensitive aquatic habitats in Las Cienegas NCA and Cienega Creek Natural Preserve,” the EPA letter states.

The agency states none of Rosemont’s three proposed mitigation projects meet regulatory guidelines to be considered as compensation for the damage done by the mine.

“To EPA’s knowledge, no compensatory mitigation plan compliant with the regulations has been prepared to date,” the agency states. “EPA finds the proposed mitigation grossly inadequate to compensate for the mine’s impact.”

The EPA’s latest letter “reaffirms” the agency’s concerns about Rosemont’s proposed habitat mitigation monitoring plan that were first addressed in a Jan. 25, 2013 letter to the Corps, which concluded: “In summary, we believe implementation of the (mitigation plan) would fail to fully compensate for the project’s impacts to regulated waters.”

Augusta cannot access $106 million from its joint venture partner, Korea-based United Copper & Moly, and $225 million pledged by Silver Wheaton in a metals streaming agreement until Rosemont has obtained the Clean Water Act permit, according to Augusta’s regulatory filings.

Augusta reported less than $750,000 cash at the end of the 3rd Quarter on Sept. 30 and was forced to sell $10 million in convertible bonds to its chairman, Richard Warke, and to Ross Beaty, a major shareholder. Augusta is spending approximately $2.5 million a month and has more than $5 million in accounts payable.

Augusta is also facing repayment of an $83 million loan, plus interest, that comes due in July. Augusta has pledged all of Rosemont Copper’s assets as collateral for the loan from RK Mine Finance Trust I.

In a press release issued moments after the market closed Wednesday, Augusta said an additional $26 million loan from RK Mine Finance  is pending upon “signing of final documentation”. If approved, Augusta must repay the entire $109 million loan by Oct. 21, 2014.

 

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3 Responses to EPA recommends rejection of Rosemont Copper’s Clean Water Act permit application for its proposed massive open-pit mine

  1. David F. Briggs says:

    Here is my response to this nonsense. I authored this article, which was published in Mining and You by the Tucson Citizen at the following link:

    http://tucsoncitizen.com/miningandyou/2013/11/21/the-news-of-rosemont-coppers-demise-has-been-greatly-exaggerated/

    Over the last eight years, Save the Scenic Santa Ritas has lost much of the support they once had in southeastern Arizona because of the tactics they have employed to fight the Rosemont Copper project. As Arizonans have learned more about this proposed 21st century mining project, they have come to recognize the misrepresentations made by its opponents; the falsification and distortion of the data and their attempts to undermine and/or delay the legal processes employed in its permitting. Their actions demonstrate an ignorance of the process used to evaluate and permit a major industrial project such as Rosemont. No longer considered a credible source for information by most Arizonans, Save the Scenic Santa Ritas’ rhetoric has become more extreme over recent months, showing their desperation as this project comes closer to becoming a reality.

    On November 20, 2013, a press release issued by Save the Scenic Santa Ritas reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recommended to the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) that Rosemont Copper should not receive a 404 permit, which is required by the Clean Water Act. Claiming to cite a recent EPA letter issued to the ACOE on November 7, 2013, their press release misrepresented and distorted the information contained within this document. In reality, the sole purpose of their press release was nothing more than a cold, calculated and potentially libelous attempt to destroy shareholders’ confidence in the management of Augusta Resource Corporation and the Rosemont Copper Company. I condemn the use of such tactics as do most Arizonans.

    The news of Rosemont Copper’s demise has been greatly exaggerated by its opponents. The confidence in the viability of the Rosemont Copper project and the ability of its management to see the permitting process to a successful conclusion has been re-enforced by Red Kite’s commitment to loan Augusta Resource an additional US $26 million. The Rosemont Copper project will become a reality. You can bank on it.

  2. ALAN JOHNSON says:

    THE AUGUSTA SAGA IS GAINING MOMENTUM BASED ON A VARIETY OF RESPONSES FROM A VARIETY OF SOURCES , SOME MORE RELIABLE THAN OTHERS . THE RECENT ABRUPT SHARE VALUE FALL AND IMMEDIATE RECOVERY APPEARS ABNORMAL CONSIDERING THE TRADING PATTERN OF AUGUSTA SHARES UP TO THE POINT THAT A ” LETTER OF INTEREST ” WAS ” LEAKED ” . WHO LEAKED THE LETTER AND TO WHOM WAS IT LEAKED ? IT APPEARS THAT AT LEAST TWO GOVERNMENT AGENCIES WITH WHOM AUGUSTA HAS BEEN ” WORKING CLOSELY ” ARE INVOLVED . REFERENCE HAS BEEN MADE TO A ” NON GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION ” AND MORE SPECIFICALLY , AUGUSTA HAS TAKEN ISSUE WITH THE SSSR ORGANIZATION OVER THEIR EFFORTS TO HOLD AUGUSTA RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MISLEADING INFORMATION THAT THEY HAVE BEEN CIRCULATING REGARDING THE ROSEMONT PROJECT .

    THE STOCK MARKET IS MAKING BIG MONEY FOR THOSE IN THE KNOW AND THIS WOULD APPEAR TO POSSIBLY INCLUDE AUGUSTA EXECUTIVES AND THEIR CRONIES . RECENTLY , THEY PROVIDED $10MILLION OF THEIR PERSONAL WEALTH TO KEEP AUGUSTA AFLOAT . PERHAPS THIS SUDDEN STOCK MARKET ACTIVITY WAS A WAY IN WHICH THEY RECOVERED SOME OF THEIR CONTRIBUTION ?

    THE ENTIRE AUGUSTA – ROSEMONT PROJECT IS NOW SHROUDED IN POLITICAL INTRIGUE RATHER THAN TECHNICAL MERIT . AUGUSTA HAS NO MORE ” TECHNICAL FACTS ” TO PRESENT AND SO HAS TURNED TO LAWYERS , ACCOUNTANTS AND PUBLIC RELATION SPIN MASTERS , LOBBYISTS , ETC IN ORDER TO TRY AND MAINTAIN A RIGHTEOUS IMAGE AND MOVE FORWARD .

    AUGUSTA IS NOT A MINING COMPANY AND HAS NEVER BROUGHT A MINE INTO PRODUCTION . THEY CAN BEST BE DESCRIBED AS PROMOTERS AND SPECULATORS LOOKING FOR OPPORTUNITY , NOT OBLIGATION . THEY CAN BE BACK IN CANADA IN AN INSTANT LEAVING EGG ON THE FACES OF ALL OF THE ARIZONANS THAT BELIEVED IN THEM . SENIOR OFFICERS OF AUGUSTA HAVE DONE IT BEFORE , UNDER DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCES AND WILL DO IT AGAIN . A LEOPARD NEVER CHANGES ITS SPOTS .

  3. Brian Turner says:

    Hi David – Perhaps we could reach a compromise by instead having Rosemont constructed in your parallel, fantasy universe where most Arizonans support a major industrial site in the middle of the Santa Rita Mountains, home to endangered species like jaguars, rare aquatic desert environments like Cienega Creek, a premier National Park and several Wilderness areas a short distance away, and a world class astronomical observatory to boot. All of these would be irreparably harmed by your so-called 21st century mine, and that’s a fact. The dwindling Rosemont fan base will continue to make specious claims to the contrary, but the reality is that it wouldn’t matter to you even if your private convictions acknowledged the harm you embrace. Your values are twisted, and frankly have no place in this corner of paradise. That is why the momentum – in case you haven’t noticed or thought it plainly evident by your reaching out on this website – is decidedly against Rosemont.