Save the Scenic Santa Ritas Press Release: Augusta Resource’s Proposed Rosemont Mine Threatens Southern Arizona’s Water

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Critical Clean Water Act permit deficiencies “could provide an adequate basis for permit denial”

TUCSON, Ariz., Feb. 21, 2012  — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week warned that Augusta Resource Corporation’s proposed Rosemont Mine may not obtain a key water quality permit needed to build the mine because of its potential to pollute southern Arizona’s water resources.

The EPA letter, sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, stated that the deficiencies in Rosemont’s Clean Water Act Section 404 application “could provide an adequate basis for permit denial…”  The mine cannot be built without the 404 permit.

The EPA letter identified six critical deficiencies in Augusta Resource’s water quality permit:

  1. Inadequate analysis of alternatives to ensure that the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative was chosen;
  2. Questionable hydrological assessments;
  3. No biological assessment to identify impacts to threatened or endangered species;
  4. Significant degradation of Arizona’s rare and fragile wetland resources;
  5. No plan to compensate for unavoidable impacts to waters of the United States;
  6. Negative impacts on a $2.95 billion regional economy.

This week’s letter follows an early January letter from EPA, which also highlighted these significant water quality issues.  Augusta Resource dismissed EPA’s concerns, claiming EPA merely has an “advisory” role in an apparent effort to downplay the regulatory challenges facing this project and cast it in a favorable light to investors.

“Augusta is wrong,” said Gayle Hartmann, President of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, a Tucson-based citizen’s group comprised of more than 90 local businesses and organizations opposed to the mine. “EPA has authority to veto the permit.  More importantly, EPA’s letter underscores the severe environmental and economic impacts, particularly to southern Arizona’s water resources, if this mine is allowed.”

Vancouver, B.C.-based Augusta Resource is seeking permits to develop the Rosemont Mine, a massive open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest, adjacent to the Tucson metropolitan area.  The Clean Water Act Sec. 404 permit is an essential regulatory approval, separate from the Forest Service analysis of impacts undertaken pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA.)

SSSR was established in 1996 to protect the scenic, aesthetic, recreational and wildlife values of the Santa Rita Mountains through education and outreach. http://www.scenicsantaritas.org

[Editors Note: The EPA letter can be downloaded here:  http://www.scenicsantaritas.org/20120213_EPA.pdf]

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2 Responses to Save the Scenic Santa Ritas Press Release: Augusta Resource’s Proposed Rosemont Mine Threatens Southern Arizona’s Water

  1. Sally says:

    Re: Augusta has “No plan to compensate for unavoidable impacts to waters of the United States;”

    Somehow I do not find this surprising since Augusta has no plans to compensate property owners for unavoidable impacts to their private water wells and/or water supply. Water levels to nearby properties will be drawn down 10 to 100′. Rosemont Copper recently sent out a ridiculous “Well Protection Program” hoping that people will take a $5,000.00 & $15,000.00 payoff or sign on to their well program, BOTH of which will release Augusta/Rosemont from any and all future responsibility and/or liability in connection with water quantity. Why would anyone agree to such a thing when Rosemont can use unlimited amounts of water at their sole discretion? Their well program does not provide for replacing the well nor the cost of hauling in water, if necessary. $5,000.00-$15,000.00 doesn’t even begin to cover the loss in property value nor does the plan offer any protection for owners of unimproved properties.

    Considering how important our water quality and quantity is to this region and to our state, I would think a mining company would get their Clean Water Act Section 404 application perfect. Oh, that’s right………they’ve never built or operated an open pit copper mine before. Silly me! These 6 items are huge and I sincerely hope that the EPA and US Army Corps of Engineers continue to analyze ever detail and move this company makes. We have seen Augusta/Rosemont show arrogance many times throughout this process but now they’re showing their arrogance by dismissing EPA’s role. We have too much at risk in Davidson Canyon, Cienega Creek watershed and August/Rosemont should be denied the 404 permit – permanently.

  2. Jill Hanson says:

    Well said, Sally. The Augusta Resource/Rosemont spokespeople typically respond not only with arrogance but with a well-prepared show of bravado almost like bluffing in a poker game! Typical lawyerly play acting…