Pima County will be impacted by more toxic releases if the Rosemont mine is approved

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Sunday’s Arizona Daily Star reports on the increased toxic releases coming from Arizona’s mines.  If the proposed Rosemont copper mine goes into production, Pima County will become even more impacted by the release of toxic chemicals and metals into the environment.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s annual Toxic Release Inventory report, Pima County is currently the fourth most impacted county in the state with 4.6 million pounds of toxic materials released each year.

Gila County, in central Arizona, which is home to several major copper mines and the state’s only copper smelter in Hayden, leads the state with 66.2 million pounds of toxic releases.

Apache County, in northeastern Arizona, is next with 7.3 million pounds of hazardous air pollutants released by two coal-fired, electric generating stations.

Greenlee County is third at 4.8 million pounds of toxins, all of which are released by Freeport-MacMoran’s massive open pit copper mine in Morenci. The Morenci mine is the largest copper mine in the United States, producing about 390 thousand metric tons of copper concentrate annually.

As noted in Sunday’s Arizona Daily Star article, the annual TRI report collects information on certain toxic chemical releases to the air, water and land, as well as information on waste management and pollution prevention activities by facilities across the country.

More than 90 percent of Pima County’s toxic releases come from two copper mines: Freeport-McMoran’s Sierrita Mine in Green Valley and Asarco’s Mission Mine in Sahuarita.

Sierrita is the nation’s sixth largest copper mine producing about 100,000 metric tons of copper concentrate a year. The mine released 2.4 million pounds of toxins in 2011, according to the EPA’s report.

The Mission Mine is America’s ninth largest copper mine producing about 70,000 metric tons of copper concentrate annually. The Mission mine reported releasing 1.9 million pounds toxins.

There is no direct comparison between the toxins included in the TRI and the projected pollutants in Rosemont’s environmental studies released to date because of differences in measuring and classifying the pollutants.

However, notwithstanding Rosemont’s aggressive PR claims that they will be a “21st century mine” this mine would significantly contribute to the release of toxic substances in Pima County and southern Arizona.

Using their own projected output estimates of 120,000 metric tons, Rosemont will be one of the largest copper mines in the U.S.  As a result, it could produce at least as many toxins as the 2.4 million pounds released by the smaller Sierrita mine and somewhat less than the 3.9 million pounds released by Pinal County’s Ray Mine, which is the nation’s third largest mine with 170,000 metric tons of copper produced annually.

If Rosemont generates 2.4 million pounds of toxic releases, Pima County’s output will rise to 7 million pounds of releases each year and rank as Arizona’s third most impacted county by toxic releases.

Pima County could jump ahead of Apache County’s 7.3 million pounds if Rosemont’s toxic releases hit 2.7 million pounds – which is not an unreasonable expectation given the size of the mine.

The proposed Rosemont mine is controlled by Augusta Resource Corporation, a Vancouver, B.C. speculative mining company. Augusta owns the Rosemont Copper Company, which is seeking permits from state and federal agencies to construct a mile-wide, half-mile deep, open pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest southeast of Tucson.

The Rosemont mine would dump waste rock and mine tailings on more than 3,000 acres of the Coronado National Forest. The 70-story high waste dumps will obliterate streams, canyons, springs and critical habitat for 10 endangered species, including the jaguar. A male jaguar has been repeatedly photographed in the last year by monitoring cameras that the Coronado National Forest chief said are “pretty darned close” to the Rosemont mine site.

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3 Responses to Pima County will be impacted by more toxic releases if the Rosemont mine is approved

  1. ALAN JOHNSON says:

    AUGUSTA RESOURCES WAS RECENTLY ISSUED AN ” AIR QUALITY PERMIT ” BY THE ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY “. THIS IS A CASE OF A STATE AGENCY TRUMPING A COUNTY AGENCY RESULTING IN AUGUSTA GETTING ITS OWN WAY , ONCE AGAIN ! IT IS WELL KNOWN THAT PIMA COUNTY HAS SERIOUS CONCERNS OVER THE ROSEMONT PROJECT AS IT IS TAKING PLACE IN THEIR BACK YARD . THE TOXIC WASTE THAT WOULD RESULT IF ROSEMONT WERE TO GO INTO PRODUCTION WOULD BE A MAJOR LIABILITY FOR PIMA COUNTY DURING THE LIFE OF THE MINE AND FOR GENERATIONS TO FOLLOW . IT IS TIME FOR PIMA COUNTY TO OPPOSE .

  2. ALAN JOHNSON says:

    THE VOLUMES OF TOXIC WASTE THAT THE ROSEMONT MINE WOULD PRODUCE ARE STAGGERING IN AMOUNTS ALONE . WHAT ARE THE METALS THAT CAN BE EXPECTED IN THESES TOXIC WASTES ? I SUSPECT THAT THIS FACT , WHICH SHOULD BE MADE KNOWN TO THE PUBLIC , WILL BE EVEN MORE STAGGERING . SPECIFIC METALS CAN BE TIED TO SERIOUS HEALTH ISSUES . THIS FACT IS WELL DOCUMENTED IN MEDICAL RESEARCH . A REVIEW OF THE HEALTH RECORDS FOR THE RESIDENTS OF PIMA COUNTY GOING AS FAR BACK AS POSSIBLE MAY REVEAL CHRONIC HEALTH ISSUES THAT CAN BE RELATED TO COPPER MINING ACTIVITIES . REMEMBER THAT MINING COMPANIES LEAVE THE SCENE OF THEIR TOXIC WASTE ONCE A MINE HAS EXPIRED . DO THEY CONSIDER THE HEALTH OF TODAY’S CHILDREN WHO ARE EXPOSED TO THE HEALTH HAZARDS ? SIMPLY PUT , THE ANSWER IS , I DO NOT THINK SO .

  3. Dona LaSchiava says:

    These are OMINOUS toxin release stats, particulary when considering any new contributors. My right ear has been seriously congested since before Thanksgiving and both mine and my family cats’ eyes are constantly tearing to remove gunks of debris. I literally shudder when thinking about any further negative health impacts when yet another mine may be allowed to spew even more toxins into our air and water! It is egregious to me that I have yet to see any Center For Disease Control (CDC) reports on a state so heavily populated with mines and the health impacts on communities. NO MORE NEW MINES!