SSSR: Rosemont mine study draws heavy fire from key agencies

Sep 04, 2013, 14:48 ET from Save the Scenic Santa Ritas

TUCSON, Ariz., Sept. 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Nine local, state, tribal and federal agencies are highly critical of the latest Forest Service analysis of the proposed Rosemont open-pit copper mine according to written comments released last week. The depth and breadth of the criticisms, along with previous demands from political leaders, raise doubts about the credibility of the Forest Service's environmental analysis of the proposed Rosemont mine, thus leaving a significant cloud of uncertainty over the project according to Save the Scenic Santa Ritas (SSSR).

Below are examples of some of the agency comments – (complete versions of the agency comments can be accessed by clicking here.)

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE): Rosemont cannot begin work unless it receives a COE permit allowing it to pollute area waterways and establishing mitigation measures to compensate for the damage. The Corps is highly critical of the Forest Service's characterization of the mitigation measures proposed by Rosemont.

Not only will the Corps not be accepting the [mitigation] parcels [proposed by Rosemont] but there has been no scientific determination that acquisition and protection of these parcels or [the Sonoita Creek Ranch also proposed by Rosemont] would "effectively mitigate impacts to surface waters."

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): The EPA gave the Rosemont draft EIS the lowest possible rating. It also has final say, and veto authority, over any water pollution permit for the mine issued by the Corps of Engineers.

[T]he proposed project continues to present serious environmental issues, and EPA has identified significant information gaps that should be resolved prior to publication of the EIS for further public review....Based on the information currently available to EPA, the proposed project will result in significant degradation to waters, including the "Outstanding Waters" of Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek.

Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ): The ADEQ regulates pollution of Arizona's air and water. Ironically, the agency essentially rubber-stamped Rosemont's air and water pollution permits, but in comments to the Forest Service, they leveled serious criticisms on the latest draft EIS.

[T]he conclusion that the mine can meet surface water standards is premature.... [T]he concluding statement "...there is little likelihood that existing water quality in Davidson Canyon or Lower Cienega Creek would be affected" is inaccurate.

Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory: The Smithsonian Institution owns and operates the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, a world-class astronomy research facility located on the Coronado National Forest about 12-miles from the mine site.

Adverse impacts on dark skies would result in an impairment of observatories near the project area, which would result in a decrease in State revenues generated from astronomy, space, and planetary research and tourism...In addition the negative public perception of having a copper mine next to an observatory has already impacted future observatory revenues, particularly diversion of future leading edge projects to other "darker" locations. (emphasis added).

Save the Scenic Santa Ritas is a non-profit, community organization of ranchers, residents and businesses working to protect the Santa Rita and Patagonia Mountains from environmental degradation caused by mining and mineral exploration activities.

SOURCE Save the Scenic Santa Ritas