Tucson and Pima County have taken significant steps to ensure southern Arizona remains a worldwide center for astronomy. A key part of this effort has been the development of a strict lighting code designed to maintain optimum dark skies for astronomical research.
Rosemont Copper’s parent company, Vancouver, B.C-based Augusta Resource Corp., wants to deploy an array of lights to operate the proposed Rosemont open pit copper mine 24/7 on the Coronado National Forest south of Tucson.
Augusta is now brazenly claiming the Rosemont mine is not subject to the lighting code.
Augusta stated in an August 28 feasibility report submitted to Canadian securities regulators that the “Pima County lighting codes do not apply to the Rosemont project.” (You can download the full, 38 mb Feasibility Report here.)
Instead, Augusta claims it “will voluntarily employ an advanced light pollution mitigation plan” that will reduce lighting “levels below the intent of the 2011 Pima County Outdoor Lighting Code.”
Augusta’s announced intention to voluntarily comply with the lighting code doesn’t pass muster with Pima County.
In a September 11 letter sent to Coronado National Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry made it absolutely clear that Augusta’s claim it has no obligation to comply with the lighting code is “an incorrect assertion.”
This is the second time Pima County has alerted the Forest Service, which is reviewing Augusta’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement, that the Rosemont mine must comply with the lighting code.
A June 8 letter from the county’s Development Services Department states that the “outdoor lighting regulations adopted by Pima County applies to mines.”
The letter was shared with all parties reviewing the DEIS, which includes Augusta.
Augusta’s misleading statement submitted to Canadian regulators, investors and stock analysts is a clear indicator of the company’s willingness to stretch the truth and undermines its pledge to deploy to an advanced lighting plan at the mine.
Any threat to southern Arizona’s astronomy industry should be taken seriously.
A 2007 report by the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management found that astronomy contributed more than $250 million to Arizona’s economy each year and supports more than 3,000 jobs across the state, a significant concentration of which is in southern Arizona.