Pima County pressures state and federal regulators to reject Rosemont Mine

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Pima County is advocating with federal officials to deny a key permit and other necessary approvals for construction of the proposed Rosemont Mine and is taking legal action to revoke the state’s issuance of a Clean Water Act (CWA) certification for the $1.9 billion project.

At the center of the county’s arguments is that the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality violated state law in 2015 when it issued a CWA Section 401 Water Quality Certification for the Rosemont project. Pima County filed an appeal of ADEQ’s administrative decision to issue the certification on May 5 in Maricopa County Superior Court.

The 401 certification “receives significant weight” in the ongoing federal review of Rosemont’s potential impacts on rare desert wetlands and riparian areas, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds.

The state’s 401 certification is part of the materials being reviewed by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as it decides whether to issue Rosemont a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit that allows dredging and filling of wetlands.

The Corps has not made a final decision on whether to issue the 404 permit, although its Los Angeles district office recommended last July that Rosemont’s permit application be denied. The mine cannot be built without the 404 permit.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry stated in a May 5 letter to the Corps of Engineers and the Region IX office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the federal government should not issue a 404 permit that is based on a “legally and technically flawed” 401 certification issued by the state.

“Pima County asserts ADEQ violated Arizona law because the conditions included in the Section 401 Water Quality Certification are derived from information (Rosemont’s Surface Water Mitigation Plan) submitted to ADEQ after the close of the public comment period,”  Huckelberry’s letter stated.

Huckelberry stated the state’s 401 certification is “fatally flawed” and that “it is not clear” that Rosemont’s mitigation plan will protect Cienega Creek and Davidison Canyon, which are both classified as Arizona Outstanding Waters that cannot be degraded.

“As a consequence, the Section 401 Water Quality Certification issued to Rosemont is both legally and technically questionable,” Huckelberry’s May 5 letter states.

Three days after Huckelberry wrote the Army Corps and EPA, the Coronado National Forest announced it intends to issue a technical approval of the Rosemont Mine in early June when it publishes a Final Record of Decision (ROD) on the project. The ROD does not clear the way for construction, but is an important administrative hurdle for Rosemont’s owners, Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals.

Before the mine can start construction, the Forest Service must also approve a separate Mining Plan of Operations for the project, Heidi Schewel, a Coronado National Forest (CNF) spokeswoman, told the Arizona Daily Star in a May 13 story.

The next day, May 9, Huckelberry sent a letter to CNF Supervisor Kerwin Dewberry  stating it was “premature” to issue the Final ROD until after the Army Corps decides on whether to issue the 404 permit and an environmental review of areas impacted by two wildfires that swept through 48,000 acres. The fires impacted portions of the Rosemont project area including the Empire Gulch, Barrel Canyon and Davidson Canyon watersheds.

“Resource agencies should be the opportunity to evaluate the changed conditions prior to concluding the (Environmental Impact Statement) and issuing the ROD,” Huckelberry stated.

Huckelberry stated that Dewberry should know the county is legally challenging the state’s 401 certification and that it is uncertain that Rosemont’s runoff from more than 3,000 acres of waste rock and mine tailings that will be dumped on the Coronado National Forest won’t damage Arizona Outstanding Waters in Cienega Creek and Davidson Canyon.

Huckelberry also stated the county intends to “submit new and important information for your record in relation to Forest’ responsibilities prior to the issuance of the ROD.”

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7 Responses to Pima County pressures state and federal regulators to reject Rosemont Mine

  1. Thomas Stewart says:

    Good Golly Pima County Needs Jobs And Rosemont Mine!! Tell The Feds To Shit Or Get Off The Pot!!

  2. ALAN JOHNSON says:

    IT BECOMES CLEARLY APPARENT THAT THE ROSEMONT PROJECT HAS BECOME A POLITICAL FOOTBALL . ALL TECHNICAL REASONING HAS TAKEN A BACK SEAT TO GOVERNMENT INFIGHTING .

    THE GENERAL PUBLIC WILL BE THE ULTIMATE VICTIMS BUT IT IS NOT TOO LATE TO SPEAK UP AND EXPRESS YOUR OPINION(S) . THINK OF ALL OF THE BENEFITS TO THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE RESULTING QUALITY OF LIFE FOR ALL CONCERNED IF THE ” ROSEMONT PROJECT ” DOES NOT GO AHEAD .

  3. Wayne Miello says:

    From what we have read, heard and observed, this “permitting process” reeks of possible corruption from State and Coronado NF officials. A great leap forward would serve the interests of all concerned by starting the process over and removing from it the influence of all personnel who are tainted by even a hint of self-interest in this permit process going forward. Time is not of the essence, getting it right is.

  4. Margaret Kuhn says:

    It is clear the Rosemont Mine would be an Environmental Hazard to wetlands, wildlife clean water and the acres of waste rock and mine tailings involved. It would be a disgrace to approve such a project.

  5. The economic gains are minimal and in fact negative in the long term. The burden of the costs of cleaning up the mess Hudbay makes will fall on local, state, and federal governments. To say nothing of the eyesore it will create by dumping the tailings on public land. Approval of the Rosemont Mine is an economic and ecological disaster for Pima County. Should it get approved there should be an immediate criminal investigation of all those involved.

  6. chris Werkhoven says:

    There will be no clean-up, just look at the abandoned mining pits left across the state, country, world. Doing science work with dangerous materials myself, there simply is no guarantee that the surrounding areas will never be contaminated either by air or by water as our knowledge about these matters and of nature, is by far insufficient. Extrapolation from the experience that may exist is not acceptable at this scale and with this risk. This on top of the out of proportion use of groundwater, one of the scarcest resources in the world, and for sure in Arizona. Groundwater belongs to the people, not to some foreign industry
    Prosecuting people is good for the morale but does not solve anything and new corrupt candidates are in ample supply. So are mining companies with new ideas to promise safety for everybody. A laughable attempt.
    The only way is the elect people who can and will make effective laws and have a vision on how economy and environmental care can co-exist. Unfortunately, capitalism and governments of today have conspired and brainwashed people that all they need is a 6 pack of beer and NFL on the TV. This principle has worked for thousands of years and even may keep people today from information available on the internet. The fight back has to use the same tools, the investigative media.

  7. Matt wallen says:

    I think we should start investigating those involved in the current approvals to see if these public officials are fit to hold their current positions. The fact that someone would so quickly approve such a clear abomination to our area, heritage, water and future is a direct indication they are not fit for their position. There is plenty of copper already being mined and this is simply a way for a Canadian company to flood the market with some even cheaper copper. Lets keep our water. Go away HUDBAY!