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:
- Inadequate analysis of alternatives to ensure that the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative was chosen;
- Questionable hydrological assessments;
- No biological assessment to identify impacts to threatened or endangered species;
- Significant degradation of Arizona’s rare and fragile wetland resources;
- No plan to compensate for unavoidable impacts to waters of the United States;
- 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]