Save the Scenic Santa Ritas Press Release: “Extraordinary” EPA Letter Says Augusta Resource’s Rosemont Copper Mine “Should Not Proceed as Proposed”


TUCSON, Ariz., Feb. 24, 2012  — In another major blow to Augusta Resource Corporation’s plans to build an open pit copper mine near Tucson, Arizona, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday the “project should not proceed as proposed.”

In a letter to the Coronado National Forest, EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld stated that the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Rosemont Copper Mine was “environmentally unsatisfactory” because it provided “inadequate information” to the public and decision makers.

This is the second letter in a week in which the EPA casts serious doubts about the Rosemont Copper project. Last week, EPA notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that Augusta Resource’s Clean Water Act Section 404 permit application failed to address numerous water quality issues and that this failure provided an “adequate basis for permit denial”. The mine cannot be built without a Section 404 permit.

In this week’s letter, Blumenfeld stated that “[t]he Draft EIS does not adequately assess the significant environmental impacts of the proposed project” and requests that the Forest Service prepare a supplemental draft EIS “prior to the issuance of any decision regarding the project.”  A supplemental DEIS would be subject to public review and comment, and would likely extend the permitting process for many months, if not years.

“EPA starkly exposes just how ill-conceived Augusta Resource’s plans are to build this mine,” says 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. “Augusta can try to sell its PR spin that this extraordinary letter is ‘a standard part’ of the process, but it is not. It provides ample evidence that the Rosemont Mine proposal is doomed to fail.”

This week’s EPA letter included a 21-page detailed analysis of the shortcomings in Augusta Resource’s DEIS. The issues include numerous air and water quality concerns, loss of “multiple tribal sacred sites,” inadequate reclamation plans, and insufficient financial analysis.

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.

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The EPA letter can be downloaded here.

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