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.

Hudbay claims that the restoration project will create enough new desert riparian areas in the Sonoita Creek floodway to not only compensate for the damage done to Sonoita Creek, but also for the damage that will be caused by the Rosemont mine.

Huckelberry states that Hudbay has not provided a detailed Sonoita Creek restoration plan making it impossible for the public to assess whether the plan will accomplish the mitigation the company promises. The Corps, Huckelberry asserts, should not accept Hudbay’s Sonoita Creek project as adequate mitigation for Rosemont without public input.

“Without more information about what (Hudbay) intends, and a chance for the public to thoroughly review and comment on that information, a decision by the Corps to accept the mitigation solely based on (Hudbay’s) representations would seem arbitrary and capricious,” Huckelberry said in the letter.

Another significant issue, Huckelberry raises, is that the Sonoita Creek restoration project is in a different watershed than what will be impacted by Hudbay’s Rosemont mine.

“Because of the geographic and hydrological disconnection between the area of impact and the Sonoita Creek mitigation site, the Sonoita Creek restoration effort will not provide any mitigation for impacts caused by the mine,” Huckelberry wrote in the letter. “While both sites are within the greater Santa Cruz River watershed, they are hydrologically separated by over 125 miles.”

Hudbay, Huckelberry points out, has rejected opportunities to provide mitigation in the Rosemont watershed. The company, he states, has declined to purchase property in the watershed that could have provided some mitigation. In addition, Hudbay has declined to make improvements to the headwaters in canyons located near three mining claims (Broadtop Butte, Copper World and PeachElgin) Hudbay controls adjacent to the Rosemont mine site.

“These headwater streams are close in proximity and very similar in nature to the headwater streams affected at Rosemont,” Huckelberry states. “The company rejected the proposal in order to maintain these areas for future exploitation.”

Huckelberry warned the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality it was acting illegally when it adopted Rosemont’s “Surface Water Mitigation Plan” without adequate public notice and an opportunity for public review. The surface water mitigation plan was included in the state’s “certification” that the Rosemont mine would meet all state surface water quality laws and regulations.

“This document was submitted to ADEQ by Rosemont Copper Company in December 2014, long after the close of the public comment period, and approximately a month prior to ADEQ’s decision to issue the Certification for the Rosemont mine,” Huckelberry states.

“Despite the failure to comply with Arizona law concerning public review and comment, ADEQ included conditions in the Certificate based on the SWMP. Because the SWMP-inspired Certification conditions resulted from a violation of Arizona law, they are unenforceable,” Huckelberry states.

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

  1. Chris Werkhoven says:

    There is no “mitigation” when it comes to “compensation” for irreversible damage to landscape and/or irreversible depletion and contamination of groundwater.
    In the context of the Rosemont project, mitigation means that Hudbay can do what they want at their site as long as they “improve” Sonoita Creek, which is not only not their property but also is miles away from their proposed mining site. Moreover, Sonoita Creek does not need any “improvement”.
    Mitigation simply is the equivalent of buying carbon credits: You give somebody money to clean up a totally unrelated project so that you can do anything you want. That may have some benefits on a worldwide scale but in case of a local project like Rosemont it is just another smokescreen of Hudbay lawyers who try to make you believe that you can add up destruction with “improvement” and end up neutral or even positive. I am very curious about what metrics is being used here. Probably the same vague or misleading ones tried by Hudbay for years. So far it has not worked as there are enough sensible people who see through those tricks.

  2. ALAN JOHNSON says:

    THE ENEMY IS ON THE DOOR STEP .

    THE GOVERNMENT AGENCIES INVOLVED IN PROCESSING HUDBAY’S APPLICATION FOR A PERMIT TO DEVELOP THE ROSEMONT COPPER PROSPECT ARE PUTTING ON A SHAMEFUL DISPLAY OF POLITICAL POSTURING WHILE WASTEFULLY SPENDING HARD EARNED TAX PAYER’S DOLLARS .
    THE MITIGATION PROPOSAL SUBMITTED BY HUDBAY IS A SHAM AND AMOUNTS TO NOTHING MORE THAN AN OFFER OF ” MOOSE PASTURE ” IN EXCHANGE FOR A PRISTINE MOUNTAIN SITE TO BE DESECRATED BY A PROPOSED COPPER MINE . IT WOULD APPEAR THAT THE ENTIRE PERMITTING PROCESS HAS BEEN CORRUPTED IN FAVOUR OF HUDBAY AND SOME ASPIRING POLITICIANS .
    PUBLIC OPINION IS CRITICAL AT ALL STAGES IN THE PROCESSING OF HUDBAY’S APPLICATION . SADLY , PUBLIC INPUT OFTEN COMES AFTER A DECISION HAS ALREADY BEEN MADE BUT KEPT SECRET FROM THE PUBLIC . THIS AMOUNTS TO NOTHING MORE THAN PROVIDING LIP SERVICE TO THE PUBLIC .
    IT HAS NOW COME TO STATE LAW VERSUS FEDERAL LAW . TWO WRONGS DO NOT MAKE A RIGHT . THIS HAS BECOME A DISGRACEFUL DISPLAY OF ARROGANCE AS SIMILARLY SHOWN IN THE CASE OF THE APACHE LEAP/OAK FLAT LAND SWAP .