Rosemont Mine "Not a Done Deal"
Forest Service admits it failed to address threats to southern Arizona environment and economy
(TUCSON, ARIZ) The U.S. Forest Service today announced that it was posting the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the proposed Rosemont Mine on its website for public review. However, the Forest Service also indicated that it was not releasing the draft Record of Decision (ROD) until mid-December. The Forest Service will not issue a final decision until well into 2014 after the public has had an opportunity to review this latest proposal and the agency addresses any objections that are raised. In addition, there are other regulatory approvals that must be obtained before the mine can proceed, including a critical water permit that the EPA recently recommended be denied.
Canadian junior mining company Augusta Resource Corp., through its Rosemont Copper Co. subsidiary, is seeking approval to blast a mile-wide, half-mile deep open pit mine in the Santa Rita Mountains just south of Tucson. Augusta also wants permission to bury more than four square miles of the Coronado National Forest under 600-800 feet of potentially toxic mining wastes that threaten critical southern Arizona water supplies.
"Despite what Rosemont Copper would like its investors to believe, this mine is not a done deal, not even close" said Gayle Hartmann, President of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas. "Just this past week, we learned that EPA concluded that this project would cause a ‘substantial and unacceptable impact’ to critical watersheds. It’s rather remarkable that according to published reports, the Coronado National Forest Supervisor would admit they are rushing this analysis out the door without addressing such a critical issue. And that's just one of the serious problems that local, state and federal agencies have told the Forest Service it needs to address. The damage this mine would cause to our water supplies, wildlife and economy is so serious that the Forest Service should have listened to its partner agencies and issued a new or revised analysis instead.”
In addition to the 120-day period for the Forest Service to review and address objections to its analysis and draft decision, Rosemont still needs multiple permits before they can begin blasting. Not only are Rosemont's state air and water pollution permits under appeal, but the company hasn't yet received a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers that would allow the dumping of mine wastes into area waterways. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has veto authority over that permit, recently recommended that it be denied. In a November 7 letter sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, EPA stated the Rosemont mine would have “substantial and unacceptable impact to aquatic resources of national importance, including the ‘Outstanding Waters’ of Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek” and recommended that this permit be denied.
Moreover, the EPA, whose responsibilities include reviewing environmental impact statements undertaken pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), has been highly critical of the Forest Service's work on Rosemont. In 2012, EPA said that the original Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Rosemont was one of the weakest environmental studies for a major mining project ever submitted. EPA’s Region IX Administrator sent a letter to the Coronado National Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch stating that the Rosemont’s DEIS was “environmentally unsatisfactory,” that pollution from the mine would pose an unacceptable “risk to human health and the environment” and that the Forest Service should correct the deficiencies by issuing a revised or supplemental DEIS.
“Throughout this entire process, the Forest Service has capitulated to Rosemont’s foreign owners and investors," said Gayle Hartmann, President of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas. "Meanwhile Rosemont, which is planning to ship the copper overseas, won't pay a dime in royalties to American taxpayers and will leave southern Arizonans to cope with the mine's devastating environmental and economic impacts. Because all of its negative consequences, we believe this mine will never happen.”
Press Release: November 20, 2013
EPA Recommends Against Federal Water Permit for Rosemont Mine
Mine would cause "substantial and unacceptable impact" to southern Arizona water supplies
(TUCSON, Ariz.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has dealt a dramatic and potentially devastating blow to Augusta Resource Corporation's proposal to build the Rosemont mine, a massive open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains just south of Tucson.
In a Nov. 7 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA recommended that the proposed Rosemont copper mine should not receive a permit that would allow the company to dump potentially toxic mine wastes into area waterways.
After completing a comprehensive and detailed analysis, EPA concluded that Rosemont's proposals to mitigate the mine's severe and permanent damage to area water supplies are "scientifically flawed" and "grossly inadequate," and advised the Corps of Engineers that the project "should not be permitted as proposed."
The EPA's recommendation to deny Rosemont's permit application is a potentially devastating blow to the mining project because EPA has veto authority over the permit, which would be issued by the Corps of Engineers only if the proposed mine meets Clean Water Act standards. The permit is required before construction could begin on the mile-wide, half-mile deep open pit mine.
EPA was highly critical of all three components of Rosemont's mitigation proposal, undermining the company's high-profile attempts to claim that the mine will comply with environmental standards. In particular, EPA said that it agreed with the Corps of Engineers that two of the three sites Rosemont was proposing to acquire (Sonoita Creek Ranch and Mulberry Canyon) "would not provide appropriate compensatory mitigation for impacts to waters from the Rosemont Mine project."
With respect to the third proposed Rosemont mitigation acquisition (water rights and land below Pantano Dam), the EPA indicated that it might have some mitigation value for a much smaller project ("e.g., flood control or highway project") but "is inadequate compensation for impacts proposed to be permitted at Rosemont Mine."
EPA's recommendation to deny the Clean Water Act permits comes at an inopportune time for Augusta Resource, Rosemont Copper's parent company. Its stock is hovering at a 52-week low and the company reported less than $750,000 in cash reserves as of Sept. 30, according to regulatory filings released last week.
Augusta's cash crisis raises serious questions as to whether Augusta will have the financial capacity to secure technical expertise to address EPA's latest criticisms of the crucial Clean Water Act permit.
The full EPA letter and analysis can be downloaded at:
The Unavoidable Adverse Impacts of the proposed Rosemont Mine
Last week, the Forest Service released an "Administrative Draft of the Final Environmental Impact (FEIS)" for the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine. Notwithstanding Rosemont's pronouncements that the approvals for the mine are a done deal, there is a long way to go. In fact, the Forest Service goes to great lengths to indicating that this draft is missing key analyses and permits required under the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. Remarkably it requires website users to affirmatively acknowlege a disclaimer that this document is missing these essential elements.
The latest draft does contain, however, a list of more than a dozen "unavoidable adverse impacts" to southern Arizona's economy and environment that would be caused if the Rosemont Mine were allowed to proceed. They include:
- Socioeconomics: "Loss of jobs in the local tourism and outdoor recreation industries cannot be avoided or fully mitigated. Likewise, loss in property values for property close to the mine would constitute an impact that cannot be avoided or fully mitigated."
- Groundwater Quantity: "[R]eductions resulting from the hydraulic sink created by the pit lake would constitute a permanent adverse impact that cannot be avoided.
- Surface Water Quantity: "The amount of surface water that would flow into drainages immediately downstream of the mine site would be permanently decreased, constituting a permanent adverse impact that cannot be avoided or completely mitigated."
- Seeps, Springs and Riparian Areas: "The loss of seeps and springs and associated riparian areas constitutes a permanent adverse impact that cannot be avoided or completely mitigated."
- Public Health and Safety: "The mine and associated activities are expected to increase risks to public health and safety, primarily from increased traffic and associated risk of additional traffic accidents."
- Dark Skies: "Residual impacts from mine lighting "would remain that are not avoidable and cannot be completely mitigated."
- Recreation and Wilderness: "Recreation use of the area would be permanently adversely impacted."
- Cultural Resources: "Cultural resources and historic properties and uses would be directly and permanently impacted. These impacts cannot be avoided within the areas of direct impact, nor can they be fully mitigated."
But as further indication of how far this document has to go, the Unavoidable Impacts section of the document does not include any discussion of groundwater quality or surface water quality impacts.
Read the latest news on Rosemont's continued attack on our environment, air and water reources and the overwhelming community support to stop the proposed mine.
TUCSON, Ariz., June 19, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Augusta Resource Corporation's annual shareholder meeting in Vancouver, B.C. takes place tomorrow amid increasing regulatory and financial uncertainty regarding its only project, the proposedRosemont Copper mine in Arizona.
Augusta's working capital is plummeting, its independent auditor has raised doubts about whether Augusta as a "growing concern",and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency describes the company's key water mitigation plan as scientificalyy flawed.
Augusta's proposed mile-wide, half-mile deep Rosemont open pit mine threatens critical Sonoran Desert surface and ground water supplies on which area residents, ranchers, farmers and businesses depend, and it would destroy several thousand acres of National Forest in the environmentally sensitive Santa Rita Mountains. The mountains are home to a dozen threatened and endangered species, including the jaguar, and host culturally significant Native American sites. The Santa Ritas sit in the heart of southern Arizona's $2.5 billion a year tourism industry.
"Augusta and its investors, including HudBay Mineral Resources, will continue to face fierce opposition from citizens that are vehemently opposed to this disastrous project," says Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll.
"If Augusta and its investors believe they can steamroll this community with platitudes and promises and pressure regulators into issuing permits so they can enrich its investors, they are in for a rude awakening," Carroll, a Republican, added.
Augusta states in regulatory filings that its Rosemont Copper Company subsidiary expects to receive Forest Service approvals and an Army Corps of Engineers' Clean Water Act permit by the end of the Third Quarter, with construction beginning by the end of the year.
"Augusta's claims are a desperate attempt to convince investors that mining is imminent," says Gayle Hartmann, president of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, a Tucson-based citizen's coalition that has successfully worked for decades to keep mining projects out of the popular mountain range southeast of Tucson.
"This project is nowhere near final approval, and we are determined it will never break ground," Hartmann says. "Augusta and its investors are wasting time and money continuing their effort to build this mine."
Augusta had $6 million cash at the end of the 1st Quarter and has been burning through cash at a rate of about id="mce_marker"0 million a quarter. The highly-diluted, speculative junior mining company has 144 million shares outstanding, with Rosemont being its only asset.
For the last two years, Augusta has relied on short-term loans from London-based copper hedge fund Red Kite Explorer Trust for operating capital. Red Kite's $83 million loan is due in July 2014. Augusta has pledged Rosemont Copper Co.as collateral for the loan.
Save the Scenic Santa Ritas is a non-profit organization working to protect the Santa Rita and Patagonia Mountains from environmental degradation caused by mining and mineral exploration activities. Our current activities are focused on the proposed Rosemont Copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains.
Click here for the full press release from PRNewswire.