Forest Service expected to approve Rosemont Mine before Army Corps makes key Clean Water Act permitting decision

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The Coronado National Forest is expected to issue of Final Record of Decision approving the proposed Rosemont Mine next month, but the $1.9 billion project can not move forward until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issues a Clean Water Act permit.

The Forest Service announced its plans in a Federal Register notice published on Monday, May 8. Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals is seeking permits to construct the third-largest open pit copper mine in the United States in Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest southeast of Tucson.

Coronado Forest Supervisor Kerwin Dewberry told the Arizona Daily Star a little less than a year ago that he wasn’t necessarily going to wait for a Corps decision before making his own, the paper reported Monday. But, the paper stated, Dewberry said he would want to see the Corps’ analysis of the mine, adding: “I’m not saying I won’t wait. I’m saying my decision is not contingent on their decision.”

The Army Corps’ Los Angeles district office last July recommended denying the permit for the Rosemont mine. The Corps’ San Francisco regional office is reviewing the permit and has repeatedly stated it has no timetable for making a final decision, the Daily Star reported.

The Los Angeles district office 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.

Mine opponents sharply criticised the Forest Service’s decision to approve the mine before the Corps’ permitting decision.

“There is no compelling reason for the Forest Service to move forward with this decision at this time,” said Randy Serraglio, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s a slap in the face to other agencies that are still carefully considering the
devastating impacts of this proposal. There are still far too many unanswered questions about Rosemont to plausibly pretend that a decision is warranted.”

“If the Forest Service proceeds to issue a Record of Decision before the Corps’ decision, it is wasting time, energy and tax dollars in what is nothing more than a PR exercise,” said Gayle Hartmann, president of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas. “In the absence of a Clean Water Act permit, a final Mine Plan of Operations and a bonding agreement, the Forest Service has no decision to make.”

The proposed project would be conducted on approximately 995 acres of private land owned by Hudbay Minerals; 3,670 acres of Forest Service lands; and 75 acres of Arizona State Land Department land. The operation will produce copper, molybdenum and silver concentrates.

Mine tailings and waste rock would be dumped on more than 3,000 acres of national forest. A dozen threatened and endangered species live in the area, including a male jaguar that has been repeatedly photographed close to the proposed mine site.

The mile-wide, 3,000-foot deep open pit would not be backfilled. The pit will draw groundwater from the surrounding area, lowering the ground water table and threatening to destroy rare riparian resources in the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area east of the mine site.

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6 Responses to Forest Service expected to approve Rosemont Mine before Army Corps makes key Clean Water Act permitting decision

  1. It is interesting that some people in decision making capacities believe that the making money (profit) is more important than maintaining the quality of the environment for humans, animals, and other living things

  2. ALAN JOHNSON says:

    AS PREDICTED , THIS DECISION BY THE FOREST SERVICE TO ISSUE A ” FINAL RECORD OF DECISION ” IS PURELY AND CLEARLY , A POLITICAL DECISION . THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO ” TECHNICAL MERIT ‘ FOR TAKING SUCH ACTION . THE PERMITTING PROCEDURE IS TOTALLY FLAWED AND ALL AGENCIES INVOLVED , AT EVERY LEVEL , ARE SHOWING COMPLETE DISREGARD TO THE FUTURE OF THE PEOPLES OF ARIZONA WHO WILL BE NEGATIVELY IMPACTED SHOULD THE ROSEMONT PROJECT RESULT IN AN ACTIVE MINE .

    FIGHTING THIS MATTER IN THE COURTS WILL BE A LONG AND COSTLY PROCESS . HUDBAY THRIVES ON LEGAL CONFLICT AND PAYS TOP DOLLAR FOR ITS LEGAL TEAM . THE GOVERNMENT IS COMPLACENT IN THAT IT CAN USE TAX PAYERS DOLLARS TO DEFEND ITS ACTIONS . THAT LEAVES THE OPPOSITION DEPENDENT ON DONATIONS TO COVER ITS LEGAL CHALLENGES . WHERE IS JUSTICE IN ALL OF THIS ?

    AS A CONCERNED PUBLIC , MAKE THIS MATTER A PUBLIC OUTCRY BY WHATEVER MEANS . AS CITIZENS , YOUR VOICE HAS MEANING . ” SPEAK NOW AND FOREVER HOLD YOUR PEACE ” .

  3. Wayne M says:

    Maybe someone in authority should start monitoring the bank accounts, spending habits and general financial situation of Dewberry. With such a beautiful area at stake, including rare animals, American Indian burial grounds and precious water, it seems that no one should be in a hurry to sign any approvals. Dewberry, thank God, is not and should not be the signing authority for anything with the attitude he apparently has.

  4. Wayne Miello says:

    With such valuable resources at stake at Rosemont such as rare wildlife, ancient American Indian burials and precious water, no one should be in a haste to approve mining operations. Perhaps authorities should check the financial situation of Dewberry given his disregard for the Corps decision.

  5. Sandy Whitehouse says:

    Why we waste taxpayers’ money on the U.S. Forest Service is a mystery. They cannot and will not deter the destruction of the environment. Won’t save our wildlife! Can’t protect our air quality! Don’t prevent destruction of life and limb on the national forest roads the bisect it like Highway 83! Most horrendously, refuse to protect our precious water resources, inexcusable in our arid desert clime. Tens of thousands of trees will be destroyed by that mine and the forest service shrugs it off. We should rid ourselves of the useless employees of the forest service, they can’t even control fire in land they supposedly manage. Begone, oh wastrels and suckers at the public trough.

    The residents of Corona de Tucson, the victims closest to this abominable mine, have fought for years to prevent it and tried to play be the rules the forest service set forth. Spending countless hours researching and composing environmental studies. Devoting untold hours and thousands of dollars on the fight, whilst the employees of the USFS collected their pay, enjoyed their many benefits and apparently accomplish little or nothing. And as has been put forth by others making comments, may well have feathered their retirement nests at the expense of the citizenry.

    Why a foreign mining company of dubious repute can take presidence over the taxpaying citizens of Arizona is objectionable on so many levels. We can only hope the Army Corps of Engineers behaves with more integrity than the forest service.

  6. chris Werkhoven says:

    Another intimidation of Hudbay, now showing that the NFS is not insensitive to its advances. Shocking, of course, that, even after the earlier expansion announcement of Hudbay, governmental offices continue to give so-called approvals, needed or not, while this very expansion ought to nullify anything that has been investigated or approved before. It is not only a dramatic expansion in size, visisble from even northern Tucson, but also the materials to be extracted are different from copper. Litigation might work here but like Alan rightfully concluded: Fighting in court requires large amounts of money and there are always other lawyers who find other loopholes. The goal of Hudbay is to make money and complying to the rules makes that more difficult. Hence intimidation, unverifiable claims and straight-out lies about containment of toxic waste are well known practices for companies that want something that is difficult to get.
    Showing this misleading perhaps even criminal activity on national TV probably is the only way to fully stop this onslaught. Images speak to people, paper not. There will be enough TV material to shoot of nearby mining sites showing what will happen when Tucsonans look south to another destroyed mountain and witness how the prevailing winds or the inevitable floods will reach their neighborhoods with heavy metal dust or heavy metal mud slides. Not to speak about the now really massively depleted water sources that will be contaminated with similar materials to the extent that any clean up can be considered as futile: It CANNOT be cleaned up and leaks ALWAYS occur. The US already has hundreds of mines that need a “clean up”, if possible at all, so why add another, massively bigger than any other one. Large parts of the world are still in disarray because of nuclear disasters that were not supposed to happen. Companies and governments are covering up “unexplained” diseases that have popped up as far away as thousands of miles from such sites while locals could even use Geiger tellers to show their crops and forests were contaminated right after the incidents.
    It is straightforward to compose a compelling video for which a graduate student at UA can make a simulation of what is going to happen in Tucson (and surrounding communities). Such documentaries have been made before and in some cases, people do end up before a judge. In any company you can find employees who want “to talk” about how incomplete or even false information is being supplied by their bosses to the public and the authorities . Many examples are available concerning bogus bankruptcies of mining companies responsible for cleaning up their mess as well. If the people can expose the wrongdoings of their politicians, so can they do for the CEOs of any company. Time is of the essence as environmental damage typically is irreversible.
    The “jobs” and “economy” arguments so frequently used are obsolete, as they were and still are in comparable industries like coal mining. Progressive governments in eastern and western Europe have invested in alternative industries already 40 years ago and ex-miners enjoy a healthy live rather than a dangerous one while supply industries have greatly diversified. Unfortunately, the piles of rubble are still there for thousands of years to go. Most of the money will be made in Asia anyway, where low paid workers will turn the metal concentrates in some products. These products are shipped back to the US to compete with alternative, cleaner materials that have a much lower carbon footprint. The obvious remedy is to mine in Asia and fight corruption over there.