Editor’s Note: Mountain Empire Action Alliance recently sent us 10 reasons it opposes the proposed Rosemont copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains. We asked Rosemont Copper to respond, and they sent us their “Top 10 Reasons Why Rosemont Benefits Every Resident.” Here are both lists, unedited.
The U.S. Forest Service is expected to release a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on the mine before the end of the year.
1. Must meet environmental protections following exhaustive environmental review by state and federal agencies. Notwithstanding the continued misstatements and misrepresentations by Rosemont opponents, our proposed plan will only go forward if environmental protections are ensured through the rigorous, independent environmental review by state and federal agencies.
2. Located in an established mining district, with reclamation that starts Day 1. Rosemont is taking a very progressive and original approach by beginning the reclamation of the mine on Day 1 of our operations. We have already begun preparations, funding a seven-year, three-phase University of Arizona grant to allow researchers to determine which native species and what conditions will lead to the most successful re-vegetation possible.
3. Lowest water use and guaranteed protection of local waters. Rosemont will use water recycling technologies and progressive conservation, using less than half the water of traditional mines. We will recharge all of the groundwater we pump by importing water purchased from the Central Arizona Project, a process that we have already begun so we can store groundwater ahead of time. In addition, we have agreed to guarantee the viability of private wells in the pumping vicinity near Sahuarita. And, we have committed to help build a CAP pipeline to Green Valley.
4. Unmatched efficiency, resulting in the smallest footprint and highest yield. Rosemont will have a footprint less than half the size of other Pima County mines. Because our operation will employ the latest technologies with high efficiency, Rosemont will yield substantially higher amounts of copper per acre.
5. 30,000 acres of permanent land conservation and protection. Rosemont will maintain a 30,000-acre working cattle ranch as part of our re-vegetation and reclamation effort. The cattle’s grazing activity will help promote natural re-vegetation of the area. The re-vegetated mining area and the ranch will return to traditional ranching and wildlife open space once reclamation is complete.
6. Will produce copper, which is essential for a green economy. Copper plays a fundamental role in the green economy. Renewable, sustainable energy and new technologies — such as transmission and distribution systems, hybrid cars, wind turbines, and solar panels — all require large amounts of copper. In fact, a “green” home contains an average of 439 pounds of copper.
7. 2,100 jobs in our region every year. An independent study from Arizona State University found that Rosemont Copper will directly hire more than 400 employees for at least 19 years. 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. In addition, at least another 1,700 indirect service and support jobs in our local communities will be created. These indirect jobs will be for contractors and vendors providing goods or services during the nearly two decades of operation.
8. $15 billion injected into Arizona’s economy over the life of the operation. The ASU study also found that Rosemont will inject $15 billion into Arizona’s economy over the life of the operation, spread over a variety of economic sectors. This type of economic activity will result in a tremendous boost to the region.
9. Millions of dollars in local tax revenue over the life of the operation. Rosemont will also generate millions of dollars in local taxes over the life of the mine. These funds will be put to use by local government to provide vital services like education, fire and police protection, and road repairs.
10. Will reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign sources of copper. Copper is an essential part of our lives. In fact, the average person will use more than 1,500 pounds of copper in a lifetime. And that number is going up because of the prevalence of copper in new, green technologies. That means we need copper. Yet, more than 30 percent of the U.S. copper supply comes from outside the country, which means that much like oil, we must rely on other nations for this mineral. With Rosemont, we have an opportunity to produce more than 10 percent of the U.S. copper supply, greatly reducing our reliance on foreign copper.
For more information on Rosemont Copper, which is a subsidiary of Augusta Resource Corp., go to www.rosemontcopper.com/
1. Water, Arizona’s most valuable natural resource, will be endangered. The mine has an expected demand of 5,000 acre-feet of water per year or 100,000 acre-feet of water over the lifetime of the mine. Despite an already stressed ground water supply and significant anticipated population growth in Pima and Santa Cruz counties, Augusta will have no legally enforceable obligation to replace the ground water that it uses.
2. Arizona doesn’t need another copper mine. Especially one with no infrastructure in place — Arizona’s mines are operating at only 50 percent capacity and already have needed infrastructure.
3. Augusta Resource Corporation has never operated a mine. How much trust can we place in their claims that the “state of the art” methods they are proposing will not result in environmental and public health hazards?
4. The copper deposit is low grade, requiring enormous excavation in order to recover the minerals. Up to 1.9 billion tons of waste rock will be produced to obtain 600 million tons of copper-bearing ore over the mine’s lifetime. Most of the mine’s copper and profits will be leaving the state and the country.
5. The mine pit will be huge and the area of the tailings and leach fields will be 18,000 feet long. The pit will be 6,500 feet long, 6,000 feet wide, and up to 3,000 feet deep. The tailings and leach fields will extend a length equivalent to nine Washington Monument reflecting pools laid end to end.
6. A total of 4,415 acres of already-vanishing outdoor space for human recreation and wildlife habitat for rare and endangered species of plants and animals will be destroyed; 995 acres will be on private land; 3,345 acres will be on federal lands managed by the Coronado National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management; and 75 acres will be on state trust lands.
7. Arizona Scenic Highway 83 will no longer be scenic or safe. On average, there will be 150 vehicles arriving at the mine and 150 vehicles departing the mine per day, the majority of which will be heavy trucks, many transporting toxic material.
8. The economies of Tucson, Elgin, Sonoita, Patagonia, and surrounding areas will suffer. The scenic natural landscapes that annually attract millions of visitors, thousands of new residents and highly skilled workers, and hundreds of new businesses and industries to Pima and Santa Cruz counties are far more important to the region’s economic development and health than the 406 jobs the proposed mine plans to create.
9. Blasting and digging will pollute our environment. Blasting will be done by exploding 20,000 tons of ammonium nitrate per year or 380,000 tons over 19 years; digging and hauling will be done by heavy machinery burning and converting to tail-pipe emissions nine million gallons of diesel fuel per year or 171 million gallons over the mine’s estimated lifetime.
10. Large open pit copper mines can and do fail, leaving the immense burdens of mine closure, habitat reclamation, and remediation of environmental contamination to the tax payers. In the last 20 years, at least 15 “state-of-the-art” mines have filed for protection under bankruptcy leaving to the taxpayers the immense financial burden of mine closure, remediation of environmental contamination, and habitat reclamation totaling over $12 billion.
Mountain Empire Action Alliance (MEAA) is a non-partisan, informal confederation of concerned citizens in the greater Sonoita basin, including Elgin, Sonoita and Patagonia, as well the Highway 83 corridor to Vail. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org