Thursday, November 21, 2013

Grijalva on EPA Opposition to Rosemont: "This Mine Would Be an Ecological Disaster"

Posted By on Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Save the Scenic Santa Rita's yesterday released a copy of the Environmental Protection Agency's Nov. 7 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the Augusta Resource Corporation's Rosemont mine proposal water permit.

According to SSSR, this is 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."

You can read the letter here. A snippet from SSSR:

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.

US Congressman Raul Grijalva chimed in this morning with his own statement in support of SSSR and the EPA finding, and pointing out a story published last year in the Tucson Weekly.

Washington, D.C. — Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today highlighted the recent Environmental Protection Agency finding that the proposed Rosemont Mine should not be given a Clean Water Act permit to operate in the Santa Rita Mountains near Tucson. Grijalva has publicly agreed with Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, a local advocacy group, that not enough scientific analysis has been done to justify building the mine.

Save the Scenic Santa Ritas in a Nov. 20 press release publicized a letter from the EPA to the Army Corps of Engineers, dated Nov. 7, in which the agency declares that “degradation [from the mine] would be a substantial and unacceptable impact to aquatic resources of national importance, including the ‘Outstanding Waters’ of Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek.” The EPA recommends the Army Corps not issue the Clean Water Act permit that Rosemont’s parent company, Augusta Resource, needs to operate the mine.

“I’ve said all along, and I’m not alone, that good science should be more important in this decision than slick marketing brochures and political spin,” Grijalva said. “Augusta Resource tried to manipulate elections, gin up a phony local support campaign, and paper over serious environmental risks with a big advertising budget. Thankfully the EPA has done the hard and thorough research Augusta has tried to prevent, and the results are as clear as it gets. This mine would be an ecological disaster and violate the Clean Water Act. If Augusta has better data, let’s see it.”

As the Tucson Weekly reported last year in a feature on the history of the proposed mining site:

Not only was [Augusta] touting a ‘21st century mine,’ but it also fueled a cutting-edge spin campaign, with at least two local public-relations firms on its payroll at any given time. It regularly bought sponsorships on the local public-broadcasting station, and inundated Tucson’s business community with the message that this mine would prove a perfect antidote to hard times. Augusta went so far as to fashion a surreal logo with a pigtailed little girl gazing toward the sky. . . . Later, the company began targeting areas of town with letters seemingly signed by neighbors who supported the mine. The effort suffered a setback, though, when it turned out that the letters had actually been written by Augusta’s in-house PR crew.

“The EPA has done the most careful, substantive and meaningful scientific analysis to date of the mine’s potential impacts,” Grijalva said. “This should be the standard as this process moves forward. From now on, science is going to trump spin and substance is going to trump salesmanship. If Augusta wants to move forward on that basis, let’s get started. Otherwise Southern Arizona needs to move on to better economic ideas.”

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