In another set back to Augusta Resource Corporation’s plans to begin construction of the Rosemont mine later this year, the U.S. Forest Service announced it has no timetable for when environmental studies needed to build the mine will be completed.
“A date has not been set for publication of a final (Environmental Impact Statement),” the Forest Service states in a June 21 press release.
Publication of a Final EIS is needed before the Forest Service can issue a “Record of Decision” that could result in issuing a permit for the mine. Augusta proposes to build an open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest south of Tucson.
Vancouver, B.C.-based Augusta has been telling investors in regulatory filings that it “expects the Record of Decision to be issued late in the second or third quarter 2012 with construction to start in the second half of 2012.”
The Forest Service, however, said that the draft EIS is far from complete and that “additional mitigation measures are being developed” and that a “number of earlier plans are being revised and updated.”
The Forest Service is requiring wholesale revisions to Augusta’s draft EIS including “additional analyses of air quality, water quality and quantity, seeps and springs, riparian resources, dark skies, socioeconomics, and transportation.”
The Forest Service also could require Augusta to prepare a “supplemental” Draft EIS that was requested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last February. The EPA sharply criticized Augusta’s Draft EIS as being among the worst the agency has ever reviewed.
The Arizona Daily Star reports that the Forest Service has not made a decision on when it will determine whether a supplemental Draft EIS will be required. Completing a supplemental Draft EIS would take at least several months, and possibly much longer, depending on the complexity of the review.
Despite the uncertain timetable, the Forest Service states that work is proceeding as quickly as possible on the studies.
“The Forest Service is working closely with cooperating agencies and the proponent to obtain the required information as quickly and expeditiously as possible,” the agency states. “As soon as the additional reports and analyses are received and reviewed, a timeline for the Final EIS and Record of Decision will be reported.”
The uncertainty over when the environmental reports will be completed and the Record of Decision issued comes at the same time Augusta is facing a cash flow squeeze. The company states in regulatory filings it will run out of cash later this year unless it sharply reduces spending or obtains additional funds.