A dozen Arizona and national environmental groups have sent a joint letter to elected officials requesting them to oppose the construction of the proposed $1.23 billion Rosemont open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest southeast of Tucson.
“We are writing to express our continued strong opposition to the proposed Rosemont Mine and to urge you to join with us in our effort to stop it,” states the letter sent last week to elected officials. “We are engaged in this process because the Rosemont Mine poses such a serious threat to southern Arizona’s water supplies, air quality, wildlife, cultural heritage, and local economies.”
Vancouver, B.C.-based Augusta Resource Corporation is seeking permits through its Arizona subsidiary Rosemont Copper Company to construct the mile-wide, half-mile deep mine and plans to export the copper overseas.
The mine site would destroy more than 4,000 acres of National Forest and directly or indirectly damage more than 100 miles of washes, seeps, springs and streams. The proposed mine lies less than three miles west of the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Las Cienagas includes a rare, shallow Sonoran Desert aquifer that is projected to be directly impacted by the construction of the mine pit that will reverse groundwater flow directions and draw water away from the aquifer and into the pit.
The Coronado National Forest published the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Draft Record of Decision (ROD) for this project on Dec. 16, 2013. A 45-day review and objection began on Jan. 1, after which the Forest Service has up to 75 days to address any objections raised before it can make any final decisions about the project.
Coronado National Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch has publicly stated the FEIS fails to resolve nor fully addresses numerous significant issues raised by local, state and other federal agencies.
“For example, the US EPA analyzed Rosemont’s proposed water pollution mitigation plan and concluded that it is ‘grossly inadequate,’ that it ‘does not comply’ with Clean Water Act Guidelines, and that the Rosemont Mine project ‘should not be permitted as proposed,’” the letter states.
The letter notes that none of the 12 tribal nations and communities have signed a Memorandum of Understanding related to the destruction of scores of irreplaceable cultural sites and burial grounds that will be destroyed by the project.
“We remain committed to ensuring that our environment, economies, and cultural heritage are not jeopardized by this short-sighted mining proposal, a project that would primarily enrich a handful of foreign investors at the expense of those of us whose lives and livelihoods would be jeopardized by the mine’s depletion of precious groundwater supplies and its pervasive and round-the clock water, air, noise, and light pollution,” the letter states.
The groups signing the letter include: Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, Earthworks, Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, Friends of Madera Canyon, Tucson Audubon Society, Mountain Empire Action Alliance, Coalition for the Sonoran Desert Protection, Sky Island Alliance, Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity and the Patagonia Area Resource Alliance.