A detailed analysis in an online financial publication is reporting that Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals is planning to develop three open-pit copper deposits at its proposed Rosemont Mine project in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest southeast of Tucson.
Hudbay is currently seeking federal approval to construct a single massive open pit mine that would be a mile in diameter and more than a half-mile deep. The waste rock and mine tailings from the mine would be dumped on more than 3,000 acres of Coronado National Forest.
“The Rosemont project is a series of three open-pit copper/moly/silver deposits located near a large amount of large porphyry type producing copper mines,” according to the report written by Connor Ward that was published on April 27 in the online financial news site Seeking Alpha.
Ward also states that after Hudbay pays off the $1.9 billion cost to build the mine in slightly less than five years, that there is “significant development potential of surrounding properties.”
The news analysis reinforces longstanding concerns that Canadian mining companies have purposely understated their long-term plans for mining in the Santa Rita Mountains by initially seeking state and federal permits for a single mine when the true objective is multiple mines that will envelop both the eastern and western slopes of the range.
In addition to the Rosemont mining site, Hudbay controls three other mining claims in the Santa Rita Mountains with known copper-bearing rock including Broadtop Butte, Copper World and Peach Elgin. (See map here.)
The Seeking Alpha report comes less than a month after Hudbay released a voluminous technical report on the Rosemont project that for the first time revealed that the company believes additional mineral-bearing rock could be mined outside the boundaries of its proposed pit.
The technical report states the copper-bearing rock has the “potential for economic extraction after the current mineral reserves estimate (the ore located within the pit) has been mined and processed.”
The report does not identify the exact location of the additional resources outside the proposed pit, nor does it provide a plan of how the copper-bearing rock would be mined and where the waste rock and mine tailings would be dumped.
But the amount of potential mineral resources that could be mined in the future is almost identical in size to what is already classified as mineral reserves within the proposed pit, the technical report states.
The Coronado National Forest stated in an April 24 letter to Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, a Tucson-based citizen’s group opposed to the Rosemont project, that the additional resources identified in Hudbay’s technical report have no impact on the current permitting process.
CNF Supervisor Kerwin S. Dewberry’s letter states that Hudbay’s technical report is “outside the jurisdiction of the Forest Service.”
Dewberry said the pending forest service decision on whether to issue a “Final Record of Decision” approving the mine will be based on information included in the 2013 Final Environmental Impact Statement and two supplemental impact statements that were prepared based on Hudbay’s plans for a single Rosemont open pit.
“If Hudbay were to submit a proposed modification to the analyzed plan, the FS would review and make a determination at to whether or not additional NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) analysis would be necessary,” Dewberry’s letter states.
This isn’t the first time that reports have surfaced that mining companies controlling the Rosemont property intend to expand mining operations far beyond the proposed Rosemont pit.
In February 2014, Augusta Resource Corporation filed documents with Canadian securities regulators providing details of the expansion and exploration potential for areas adjacent to the Rosemont site.
Augusta stated that an additional 3 billion pounds of copper may exist at the Rosemont site and if developed “could significantly increase annual production and mine life.”
In 2012, Augusta stated in a technical report that “mineralization” at the Broadtop Butte mining claim located about a mile north of the proposed Rosemont Pit along the summit of the Santa Rita Mountains “could potentially be added as a satellite development.”