Pima County says Rosemont’s Clean Water Act mitigation application violates federal law and must be revised

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Pima County is warning state and federal environmental regulators that Hudbay Minerals’ application for a Clean Water Act permit needed for its proposed Rosemont Mine violates federal law because it fails to describe the actual mitigation the company is planning.

In letters to the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry states that Hudbay’s new plans to make major modifications to Sonoita Creek in an attempt to compensate for damages to desert riparian waterways that will be destroyed by the Rosemont open-pit mine requires public notice and an opportunity to comment.

“The Corps must issue a new public notice because the current (Clean Water Act) application does not properly describe the mitigation activities proposed,” Huckelberry writes.

Hudbay announced in September plans for a “complete restoration” of Sonoita Creek and its floodplain. The restoration project includes dredging and filling of nine acres of federally-protected waters in Sonoita Creek. Continue reading

Posted in Clean Water Act, General, Hudbay, water | 2 Comments

Tohono O’odham Nation demands consultation with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Hudbay’s Rosemont Mine project

The Tohono O’odham Nation is demanding that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers engage in “government-to-government” consultations with the tribe before deciding whether to issue a crucial Clean Water Act permit needed to construct Toront0-based Hudbay Minerals proposed $1.9 billion Rosemont copper mine.

“The Corps must consult with the Nation regarding its ongoing review of the permit, including all the reasons articulated in the (Corps’) Los Angeles District’s decision recommending denial of the permit,” attorneys for  Earthjustice, which is representing the Nation, stated in a detailed 42-page letter.

Consultation would allow the Nation to provide additional legal and scientific support to a July 2016 recommendation by the Corps’ district office to deny the Section 404 Clean Water Act (CWA) permit for the proposed open pit that would be blasted into the northeast slope of the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest southeast of Tucson.

The mine, which could be come the third largest open pit copper mine in the United States, cannot be built without the permit.

The Nation’s Nov. 28 letter was sent to Col. D. Peter Helmlinger, Division Commander of the Corps’ South Pacific Division based in San Francisco, which is reviewing the District’s denial recommendation. Continue reading

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State environmental regulator moving to take over federal Clean Water Act permit decision needed for Rosemont Mine

Arizona environmental regulators are taking steps to take control of a crucial federal permitting process in what appears to be an attempt to circumvent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ongoing review of Hudbay Mineral’s Clean Water Act permit application for its proposed Rosemont open-pit copper mine.  Beyond Rosemont, state control of this program could have far-reaching implications to many other projects that could impact Arizona’s water resource.

In an email to stakeholders, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Quality Division is holding a special meeting on taking over issuing federal Clean Water Act permits at 1 p.m., Monday, Dec. 4, at the agency’s headquarters at 1110 W. Washington St., Phoenix in room 250. The public may also attend the meeting by calling 240-454-0879 with access code 282-719-829.

“The meeting will discuss state assumption of the Clean Water Act Section 404 dredge and fill program,” the ADEQ stated in an email.

The Army Corps is currently reviewing Hudbay’s 404 permit application. Hudbay needs the permit because its proposed mine would destroy federal desert waterways. The company must provide adequate mitigation from the damage it will cause in order for the permit to be legally issued.

The Corps’ Los Angeles district office recommended the permit be denied in July 2016. The Corps’ regional office is currently reviewing Hudbay’s permit application. The Corps has long expressed serious concerns about the mile-wide, half-mile deep mine that would dump waste rock and tailings on more than 2,500 acres of Coronado National Forest stating that Hudbay’s mitigation plan was inadequate. Continue reading

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Environmentalists file second federal lawsuit challenging Hudbay’s proposed Rosemont Mine

Four conservation groups filed suit in U.S. District Court Monday in Tucson seeking to overturn the U.S. Forest Service’s approval of Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals Inc.’s proposed Rosemont copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest 30 miles south of Tucson.

The suit comes two months after the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s issuance of a biological report that concluded the mine would not have a significant impact on endangered species including the jaguar.

The report, known as a “biological opinion”, cleared the way for the Coronado National Forest Service to approve the mine earlier this year when it issued a final “record of decision” declaring that mile-wide, half-mile deep open pit mine complied with environmental laws and regulations and should proceed. The newest lawsuit alleges the Forest Service violated numerous state and federal laws when it issue the record of decision.

The $1.9 billion mine is expected to produce about 240 million pounds of copper a year and would employ about 400 permanent workers. The mine would rely on groundwater pumped from wells near the Santa Cruz River west of the Santa Rita Mountains. The entire project is expected to span 30 years.

The mine would dump huge amounts of rock and mine tailings on about 2,500 acres of Coronado National Forest. Another 1,500 acres would be impacted by mine infrastructure and the open pit, which would be dug primarily on private land.  More than 5,000 acres would be permanently closed to the public. Continue reading

Posted in EIS, General, Hudbay, Litigation | 1 Comment

Pima County challenges Hudbay’s efforts to reduce significance of desert streams near proposed Rosemont Mine

Pima County is challenging Hudbay Minerals attempts to have federal regulators reclassify two desert streams that will be impacted by its proposed Rosemont Mine as fleeting, short-lived, watercourses rather than as intermittent waterways that have continuous water for extended periods.

The distinction is crucial as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reviews Hudbay’s application for a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit for the massive open pit copper mine planned in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest southeast of Tucson.

Reducing the amount of water in Barrel Canyon and Davidson Canyon could potentially allow Hudbay to reduce the amount of mitigation it must provide in order to obtain the CWA permit. The $1.9 billion mine cannot be constructed without the permit.

Hudbay’s efforts to obtain the permit have run into opposition from the Army Corps because its mitigation plans have not fully compensated for the loss of desert waterways. In July 2016, the Army Corps Los Angeles district office recommended denying Hudbay’s permit application. The Corps regional office is currently reviewing Hudbay’s application.

Rather than fully mitigate the damage it will cause to desert aquatic resources, Hudbay and its contractors are attempting to reduce the significance of the desert waterways by classifying them as “ephemeral”, which means they only have water for brief periods of time. Continue reading

Posted in Clean Water Act, Hudbay, water | 2 Comments