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Rosemont Copper is the name of a proposed new and large open pit copper mine project pursued by the Canadian mining corporation Hudbay Minerals. It has undergone a permitting review process under the direction of the United States Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and has been delayed by legal judgements and suspension of its operating permit by the US Army Corps of Engineers [3].[1] The project site is located within the Santa Rita Mountains and Coronado National Forest, in Pima County of southern Arizona.

Rosemont Copper
Rosemont Copper is located in Arizona
Rosemont Copper
Rosemont Copper
Location of the Rosemont Copper Mine in Arizona
Coordinates: 31°51′05″N 110°45′26″W / 31.85139°N 110.75722°W / 31.85139; -110.75722Coordinates: 31°51′05″N 110°45′26″W / 31.85139°N 110.75722°W / 31.85139; -110.75722
CountryUnited States
StateArizona
CountyPima County
Protected areaCoronado National Forest
Time zoneUTC-7 (MST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-7 (no DST)
Area code(s)520

IntroductionEdit

The Rosemont Copper Mine site is approximately 30 miles (48 km) southeast of Tucson. The nearest established communities are Sonoita, Patagonia, Sahuarita, Green Valley, Corona de Tucson, and Vail.

Opponents argue that the mine will pollute surface and subsurface water and damage aquifer quality and quantity, destroy natural habitats and endangering populations of vulnerable and unique wildlife, cause regional air pollution, and harm the local tourism industry.[2]

Proponents argue that the project will create jobs, generate tax revenue and reduce American dependence on foreign sources of copper.[3]

Following legal review of Rosemont's permits, on July 31, 2019, U.S. District Judge James Soto overturned the U.S. Forest Service’s 2017 decision approving the mine and its 2013 final environmental impact statement clearing the way for that approval. On August 23, 2019, the US Army Corps of Engineers issued a letter to Rosemont Copper Company that immediately suspended its permit.[4] The Rosemont project is now awaiting appeal of Judge Soto's ruling, which could take up to two years. Hudbay's interim CEO and President Peter Kukielski has said that Hudbay is reviewing appealing and other options.[5]

Proposed mining planEdit

In 2007, Augusta Resource Corporation, Rosemont Copper's parent company, filed a Mine Plan of Operations with the U.S. Forest Service for a proposed open-pit mine in the Santa Rita Mountains section of the Coronado National Forest.[4] On June 6, 2017, the Coronado National Forest completed their 10-year Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) review process by producing their Record of Decision for the Project (ROD).[1]

Annual production of copper is expected to reach 243 million pounds, which would equal approximately 10% of total U.S. copper production. The mine is expected to produce 5.4 million pounds of molybdenum each year along with 2.9 million ounces of silver and 17,000 ounces of gold.[5]

Location, land status and mineral rightsEdit

The Rosemont Copper property is located in Pima County, approximately 30 miles southeast of Tucson. It straddles two historic mining districts: the Rosemont Mining District and the adjacent Helvetia Mining District.[4][6] The property coordinates are approximately 31° 50′ N and 110° 45′ W.[4]

Copper became the focus of mining in the Santa Cruz Valley and elsewhere in Southern Arizona beginning in the late 1880s.[7] By 1907, Southern Arizona led world copper production.[8] Sporadic prospecting reportedly began in the northwestern portion of the Rosemont property, in the Helvetia Mining District, in the mid-1800s. Production from mines on both sides of the northern Santa Rita Mountains brought forth construction and operation of the Columbia Smelter at Helvetia on the west side of the Santa Rita Mountains and the Rosemont Smelter in the Rosemont Mining District on the east side of the Santa Rita Mountains.[4]

Copper production ceased in 1951. In the decades since, the area continued to be the site of successive exploration efforts. In 1956, the American Exploration and Mining Company began exploring the Broadtop Butte prospect. Banner Mining Company acquired most of the claims in the area by the late 1950s. Anaconda Mining Company acquired the claims to the property in 1963 and undertook a major exploration campaign that identified the Rosemont deposit as a major porphyry copper ore body. The company also advanced the Broadtop Butte and Peach-Elgin prospects. The project continued after Amax and Anaconda formed the Anamax partnership and ceased in 1986 when Anamax sold the property to a real estate company during the dissolution of Anaconda. ASARCO purchased the property in 1988, renewed exploration of the Peach-Elgin prospect and initiated engineering studies. ASARCO sold the entire property to real estate interests in 2004. Augusta acquired the Rosemont Property in 2005.[4]

Mineral rightsEdit

The core of the Rosemont property consists of 132 patented lode claims that encompass an area of 1,968 acres.[9] A patented mining claim is one for which the federal government has passed its title to the claimant, making it private land.[10] A contiguous package of 850 unpatented lode mining claims with an aggregate area of approximately 12,000 ac surrounds the core of patented claims. An unpatented mine claim is one in which land is essentially leased from the government for the purpose of extracting minerals.[11] Most of the unpatented claims are on federal land administered by the United States Forest Service. In addition, a limited number of claims in the northwest portion of the Property are on federal land administered by the Bureau of Land Management.[9]

MarketEdit

The Rosemont Copper Mine is projected to earn $6.9 billion after-tax income over the course of its 21-year lifespan and become the third largest copper mine in the United States.[12][13]

Reserves and resourcesEdit

Rosemont has proven and probable reserves of 5.9 billion lbs of copper and 194 million lbs of molybdenum and inferred sulfide mineral resources of 1.1 billion lbs of copper and 35 million lbs of molybdenum.[14]

GeologyEdit

The regional, local and property geology of the Rosemont deposit consists of Precambrian sedimentary and intrusive rocks, which form the regional basement under a Palaeozoic sequence of quartzites, siltstones, and carbonate rocks. Sedimentary deposition ceased for a time during uplift and formation of a widespread unconformity in the early Mesozoic, and then resumed with the deposition of continental and shallow marine deposits.[15]

Subsequent granitic intrusions and felsic volcanic eruptions dominated the late Mesozoic and early Cenozoic, corresponding to the Laramide Orogeny when most of the porphyry copper deposits of the region formed. Compressional tectonics during the Laramide Orogeny created both low-angle thrust faults and high-angle strike-slip faults. Extensional tectonic activity followed the Laramide Orogeny and was accompanied by voluminous felsic volcanic eruptions. Numerous low-angle normal faults formed during this time. These faults have been particularly important in the Rosemont area. The extensional tectonics eventually produced the large-scale block faulting that produced the present Basin and Range Province throughout the southwestern United States.[16]

Permitting and Suspension of PermitsEdit

Rosemont Copper submitted an initial mine plan in 2006 and then a revised mine plan in July 2007.[17] The official start to Rosemont Copper's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process began in February 2008.[1] Rosemont Copper has secured the following major permits necessary to begin construction on the proposed mine:

  • Record of Decision (ROD)[18] memorializes the Forest Service decision and summarizes the requirements determined during the EIS process.[1]
  • Aquifer Protection Permit[19] is needed if you own or operate a facility that discharges a pollutant either directly to an aquifer or to the land surface or to the vadose zone (the area between land surface and the water table where the moisture content is less than saturation) in such a manner that there is a reasonable probability that the pollutant will reach an aquifer.[20]
  • Construction Storm Water General Permit[21] is required for any point source discharge of pollutants to a water of the United States. Because storm water runoff can transport pollutants to either a municipal separate storm sewer system or to a water of the United States, permits are required for those discharges.[22]
  • Agriculture Land Clearing Permit[23] is for any activity that includes the clearing of more than one acre of land and which is not exempt by this ordinance, shall be required to have a Clearing Permit.[24]
  • Air Activity Permit[25] PDEQ protects air quality by regulating fugitive dust emissions. The Activity Permit Program ensures that individuals are aware of fugitive dust emissions regulations and requires them to provide information regarding the location and types of activities so the department can monitor compliance.[26]
  • Air Quality Permit[27] regulates pollutants to ensure that these emissions do not harm public health or cause significant deterioration in areas that presently have clean air.[28]
  • Groundwater Withdrawal Permit[29] is a right to use non-irrigation withdrawals of groundwater equal to the maximum groundwater withdrawal and use for any one year during the five-year period prior to 1980.[30]
  • Type 2.02 and 3.03 General Aquifer Protection Permits[31] is for a facility that discharges a pollutant either directly to an aquifer or to the land surface or the vadose zone (the area between an aquifer and the land surface) in such a manner that there is a reasonable probability that the pollutant will reach an aquifer.
  • Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Encroachment Permit[32] is a request for transmission lines to a project when no existing lines could serve the purpose.[32]

Rosemont has received the following approvals:

  • 401 Certification[33] certifies that discharges associated with the project will meet all water quality standards.[34]
  • Arizona Mined Land Reclamation Plan Approval[35] is a plan for post-mining operations to correct the disturbed land used for mining.[36]
  • Hazardous Waste Identification Number[37] is the first step in the hazardous waste management system. Correctly determining whether a waste meets the RCRA definition of hazardous waste is essential to determining how the waste must be managed.[38]

However, upon challenge in the courts, Rosemont's permits have faced legal hurdles. Following his legal examination of the issued permits for the Rosemont Mine, on July 31, 2019, U.S. District Judge James Soto overturned the U.S. Forest Service’s 2017 decision approving the mine and its 2013 final environmental impact statement clearing the way for that approval. Soto’s decision called the Forest Service approval “arbitrary and capricious.” He sided with environmentalists and tribes that sued to stop the Hudbay Minerals Inc. project. Specifically, he ruled that the mining company can't put its waste rock and mine tailings on Forest Service land even though it has mining claims on it because it has failed to prove the claims are valid.[6]

Following the determination from Judge Soto that Rosemont's attempt to use Forest Service land for waste disposal was invalid, on August 23, 2019, General D. Peter Hemlinger PE, Division Commander, Northwestern Division, US Army Corps of Engineers wrote a letter to Ms. Katherine Ann Arnold, PE, Director of Environment for Hudbay Minerals Corporation, that rescinded Rosemont's operating permit. Gen. Hemlinger wrote: "I am writing to inform you that I am suspending your Department of the Army (DA) permit, issued on March 8, 2019, for the Rosemont Copper project (SPL-2008-00816- MB). This suspension is effective immediately." [7]

According to published media reports, the suspension of Hudbay's permit for Rosemont Mine could have implications throughout the US mining industry. [8]

Hudbay Mineral's response to the suspension of their permit was to promise to appeal Judge Soto's decision, and attorneys for Hudbay Minerals filed a request with Judge Soto to amend or rescind his decision in preparation for their appeal.[9]

NEPA ReviewEdit

In October 2007, Rosemont Copper submitted the Rosemont Project Mining Plan of Operation to the United States Department of Agriculture and the Coronado National Forest.[16] In March 2008, The Coronado National Forest began their NEPA process, starting with the Environmental Impact Statement.[1]

The Department of Agriculture, Forest Service's website states regarding Rosemont Cooper's Environmental Impact Statement:

Scoping the proposal is the starting point in the Environmental Impact Statement process under NEPA. Over 11,000 scoping comment submissions were received. From scoping, issues were identified and used to develop alternatives to the proposal. Feasible alternatives, which allow the claimant to reasonably exercise their statutory rights and vested property rights in minerals while seeking to minimize adverse environmental impacts on National Forest surface resources, are then described and analyzed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision will follow once comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement are analyzed and incorporated into the document.[1]

The Draft EIS for Rosemont contained approximately 400 reports on topics such as air quality, water resources, soils and reclamation, and biological resources. A full list of all 400 reports can be viewed on the Forest Service's website.[39]

The public comment period for Rosemont's draft EIS closed on January 31, 2012.[40]

The Coronado National Forest planned to release the Final Environmental Impact Statement in December 2012, but postponed the release to an undisclosed date. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, State Historic Preservation Office, and the Army Corps of Engineers, are still completing their analysis.[41] The Forest Service Southwestern Regional Office released their Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and draft Record of Decision (ROD) for the Rosemont Copper Project on December 13, 2013.[42]

ControversyEdit

The controversy over the proposed Rosemont Copper mine revolves around potential risks to the environment, with water being the number one concern.[43]

In general, opponents argue that open-pit copper mines pollute surrounding air and water supplies with mercury, lead, arsenic or other elements and that the mine will damage regional tourism.[44] EPA has shown that copper mining in Arizona generates substantial radioactive waste, called TENORM (Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials), and TENORM from the Rosemont Mine has been cited as a major environmental concern. [10]

Proponents argue that the Rosemont mine will provide economic benefits to the region, including jobs and tax revenue,[45] as well as help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign sources of minerals.[46]

Opposition to the project is led by Save the Scenic Santa Ritas (SSSR) and includes the Center for Biological Diversity, Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Sky Island Alliance, and Tucson Audubon Society.[47]

The Rosemont Copper project has been endorsed by Arizona Builders' Alliance,[48] Alliance of Construction Trades,[49] Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors,[50] Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce,[51] Marana Chamber of Commerce,[52] Southern Arizona Contractors Association,[53] Tucson Utility Contractors Association,[54] Arizona Contractors Association,[53] City of Benson,[55] Southeast Arizona Economic Development Group,[56] and Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce.[52]

However, the Rosemont Mine has also faced considerable political opposition. The Pima County (AZ) Board of Supervisors published a memorandum in opposition to the Rosemont Mine on April 16, 2019. In part, the memorandum states: "After nearly a decade of controversy, it is clear that meaningful mitigation of this mine’s impacts has not been achieved. If anything, regulatory agencies and proponents involved appear to be backsliding on their previous and specific commitments. The fundamental administration of national environmental laws is also retrogressing. Increasing levels of surprise, controversy and a sense of unfair treatment and lack of concern for the public interest has resulted in a spate of lawsuits, even as federal and state agencies have issued the requisite permits. There is no community consensus on whether the prospective benefits to the economy would outweigh the known impacts to land and water in both the Santa Cruz and Cienega watersheds.[11]

Arguments against the proposalEdit

  • Open-pit copper mines such as that proposed by Rosemont pollute the air and nearby water supplies with mercury, lead, arsenic or other poisons.[57]
  • Rosemont Mine will consume approximately 6,000 acre-feet of potable water per year for mining operations.[12] This equals approximately 5 million US gallons per day, enough water to provide the household water needs for 50,000 people.[13]
  • The economies of the Santa Rita Mountains communities are largely driven by outdoor recreation and tourism. Even modest impact from the Rosemont Mine could discourage tourism to the region, and destroy more than the number of new jobs the mine would create.[58]
  • The mine poses a risk to the habitat of the last known living wild jaguar in the United States, El Jefe.[59][60][61]
  • Construction and operation of the mine will severely impact Arizona Scenic Route 83, a two-lane, winding road that is the only access road for mine construction, equipment transportation, and copper concentrate shipping. [14]

Arguments in favor of the proposalEdit

  • Copper is an essential component of a clean-energy economy. For example, hybrid cars contain twice as much copper as conventional cars.[62]
  • The mine would import 105% of the water needed for operations and leave a 5% net water gain to the Tucson Active Management Area basin.[63]
  • The used land will be reclaimed from the beginning of the mine's operations.[64]
  • The EIS found that the project will meet all environmental requirements and meet all environmental standards required by the regulatory agencies.[1]
  • A dry-stack tailings storage method will be used to conserve water and keep pollution from seeping into the ground.[43]
  • The mine would create a much-needed economic boost to the region, directly employing 400 people for at least 19 years and support 1,700 indirect jobs.[65] Historically, mining jobs are among the highest paying positions in Arizona, and experienced workers in the copper industry in the southwest can earn an average of $59,000 or more per year.[66]
  • The project would support ancillary industries[67] – contractors and vendors providing goods and services to the mine operation during the nearly two decades of operation.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g US Forest Service EIS
  2. ^ Save the Scenic Santa Ritas - Rosemont Arguments, Scenic Santa Ritas
  3. ^ Rosemont Benefits, Southern Arizona Business Coalition
  4. ^ a b c d e Mine Plan of Operations, Augusta Resource
  5. ^ What We Mine, Rosemont Copper Mine
  6. ^ Copper Deposits of Part of Helvetia Mining District, Pima County Arizona
  7. ^ "Mining Booms", Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Alliance
  8. ^ "Mining Booms", Archaeology Southwest
  9. ^ a b "Mine Plan of Operations", Rosemont Copper Mine
  10. ^ "Mineral Patent Application", Bureau of Land Management
  11. ^ "Mining Claims", Rosemont Copper Mine
  12. ^ 2010 Arizona Mining Review, Arizona Geology Magazine, September 22, 2011
  13. ^ "Higher costs, profits forecast for Rosemont Mine" Arizona Daily Star, September 1, 2012
  14. ^ Mineral Resources Estimate, US Forest Service EIS
  15. ^ Geology and Seismotectonic Review, Vector Colorado
  16. ^ a b Mine Plan of Operations, US Forest Service EIS
  17. ^ AERMOD Modeling Report to Assess Ambient Air Quality Impacts, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
  18. ^ [rosemonteis.us Final Record of Decision], Coronado National Forest
  19. ^ "Aquifer Protection Permit Issued", Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
  20. ^ Aquifer Protection Permit, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
  21. ^ Construction Storm Water General Permit Issued, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
  22. ^ Construction Storm Water General Permit, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
  23. ^ Agriculture Land Clearing Permit Issued
  24. ^ Agriculture Land Clearing Permit
  25. ^ Air Activity Permit Issued, Pima County Department of Environmental Quality
  26. ^ Air Activity Permit, Pima County Department of Environmental Quality
  27. ^ Air Quality Permit Issued, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
  28. ^ Air Quality Permit, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
  29. ^ Groundwater Withdrawal Permit Issued, Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources
  30. ^ Groundwater Withdrawal Permit, Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources
  31. ^ Aquifer Protection Permits Issued, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
  32. ^ a b Tucson Electric Power Transmission Line Permits Issued, Arizona Corporation Commission
  33. ^ [1], ADEQ
  34. ^ [2]
  35. ^ Rosemont Ranch Reclamation Plan, Arizona State Mine Inspector
  36. ^ Arizona Mining Permitting Guide
  37. ^ Hazardous Waste Identification Number Issued, EPA
  38. ^ Hazardous Waste Identification Number, EPA
  39. ^ List of Reports, US Forest Service EIS
  40. ^ Public Meetings Notice, US Forest Service EIS
  41. ^ Analysis Continues, US Forest Service EIS
  42. ^ Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Rosemont Copper Project: A Proposed Mining Operation, Coronado National Forest, Pima County, Arizona. Tucson, AZ: United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southwestern Region, 2013.
  43. ^ a b A Clash Over Mining and Water, The New York Times, March 21, 2012
  44. ^ Analyze Socioeconomic Impacts, Scenic Santa Ritas
  45. ^ Rosemont Copper Mine would benefit economy and community but is buried in bureaucracy, Tucson Citizen, April 14, 2011
  46. ^ Support of Rosemont Copper, Arizona Senate
  47. ^ Groups Opposed to Rosemont Copper, Canyon Echo
  48. ^ Builders group endorses Rosemont Mine, Arizona Daily Star, January 27, 2011
  49. ^ Construction Trade Group Among Endorsers of Rosemont Mine, Arizona Public Media, March 17, 2011
  50. ^ Tucson Hispanic Chamber Endorses Rosemont Copper, May 16, 2011
  51. ^ Tucson Chamber supports Rosemont copper mine, Inside Tucson Business, July 2, 2010
  52. ^ a b Chamber Alliance Urges Rosemont Process Move Forward, Tucson Chamber, February 1, 2012
  53. ^ a b The Arizona Contractors Association Supports Rosemont Copper Mine in Southern Arizona, June 10, 2010
  54. ^ Builders group lines up in favor of mine, Arizona Daily Star, January 28, 2011
  55. ^ Chamber concerned by threat, San Pedro Valley News-Sun, June 9, 2010
  56. ^ Rosemont Copper Mine Project, Southeast Arizona Economic Development Group Blog, September 13, 2011
  57. ^ Remaining Permits and Decisions Needed by Rosemont, April 2013
  58. ^ Economic Impacts of the Proposed Rosemont Mine, Save the Scenic Santa Ritas
  59. ^ "Rare footage of jaguar in the Santa Rita Mountains outside Tucson" (video). Los Angeles Times.
  60. ^ Center for Biological Diversity.org: "Rosemont Mine would destroy El Jefe's home and severely hamstring recovery of jaguars in the United States" . accessed 8 May 2016.
  61. ^ Tony Davis, (May 7, 2016). "Imperiled wildlife can live with Rosemont, US report says". Arizona Daily Star. Accessed 8 May 2016.
  62. ^ The Environmental Protection Agency Comes-a-Copper, Forbes, May 12, 2011
  63. ^ Initial Two-Year Water Supply Already Stored for Augusta's Rosemont Copper, Augusta Resource Press Release, June 28, 2007
  64. ^ Supporting the Rosemont Copper Mine in Southern Arizona, Arizona State Legislature
  65. ^ Tucsons News Now voices support for Rosemont Copper Mine, The More You Dig, June 26, 2012
  66. ^ Pima County's other new copper mine: Any problems for Oracle Ridge?, Southern Arizona News-Examiner. June 12, 2012
  67. ^ Construction industry rallies to support Rosemont mine proposal, Inside Tucson Business October 21, 2011

External linksEdit