We’re not the only ones questioning the veracity of Augusta Resource Corporation’s statements concerning its Rosemont Copper Company subsidiary.
Now, the U.S. Forest Service is publicly stating it is reviewing the truthfulness of Rosemont Copper’s submissions made in the environmental permitting process to build a massive open pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest south of Tucson.
Eyebrows were raised in early July when Rosemont abandoned plans to mine 70 million tons of oxide copper ore located near the surface of the proposed open-pit mine. At the same time, the company reported a 32 percent increase in sulfide copper ore reserves located deeper in the pit.
Rosemont claimed in July that dramatic increase in copper reserves would not result in additional water use, truck traffic or air pollution. But earlier this month, Rosemont backpedaled on some of those assertions, further undermining the company’s credibility.
According to a Sept. 23 story in the Arizona Daily Star, Coronado National Forest supervisor Jim Upchurch has instructed his staff to review the accuracy Rosemont’s latest assertions made in a Sept. 12 letter to the Forest Service.
The fact that the normally button-down Upchurch is publicly doubting the accuracy of Rosemont’s submissions as part of the National Environmental Policy Act review of the mine’s potential impact on public lands is not a good sign for the Vancouver, B.C. speculative mining company.
Upchurch has been expected to make a decision later this year whether to require the company to prepare a new or updated draft environmental impact statement for the mine. However, a more detailed analysis of Rosemont’s submissions to verify their truthfulness could push that decision into next year.
Rosemont’s letter is in response to a Forest Service request for additional information after Rosemont announced wide-sweeping changes to its proposed Mine Plan of Operations for the mile-wide, half-mile deep mine.
In a July 8 letter to Upchurch, the company stated that because it was eliminating plans for heap leaching and solvent extraction of oxide ore, “the quantity of water used for mineral processing will be reduced,” the Daily Star reported.
The company changed that story in its Sept. 12 letter to Upchurch.
Rather than reducing water consumption, Rosemont is now stating the company wants the Forest Service to assume that Rosemont’s water use will remain at a maximum of 6,000 acre-feet per year. An acre-foot is 326,851 gallons, or enough water to serve approximately three families for a year.
Rosemont Vice President Kathy Arnold told the Daily Star that the company has provided additional water use mitigation plans to the Forest Service. But, Arnold told the newspaper, those plans are not available to the public.
Rosemont’s refusal to be forthcoming with details of its revised mining plan and impact on water consumption makes it impossible for the public to know exactly how much water Rosemont intends to use.
Water isn’t the only issue raising questions as a result of the change in the mining plan.
Rosemont is also telling the Forest Service that mine truck traffic will actually decrease at the same time the company plans a 32 percent increase in sulfide ore production.
In a Sept. 24 article, the Daily Star reports that Rosemont refused to respond to questions seeking details on how it would be possible for truck traffic to decrease at the same time there is a substantial increase in production.
In particular, the company refused to respond to the Daily Star’s request for details of how Rosemont determined its copper concentrate grade.
The Daily Star did its own back-of-the-envelop projection: “If you divide the total amount of copper produced by the total amount of copper concentrate as shown in a 2009 feasibility study and a new study released in July, the concentrate grade comes out roughly 30 percent in both cases.”
Retired Tucson mineralogist Gary Kordosky told the Daily Star, “If you took total copper they will produce and divide it by the total concentrate, and they are roughly the same in both cases, I don’t know how you haul less concentrate out of the mine.”
Skepticism over Rosemont’s waffling claims and deceptions concerning the proposed copper mine is spreading.