EARTHWORKS

Santa Rita Mountains

United States | Arizona | Senoita: Augusta Resources

image

Credit: Photo by Tom Vezo/Save the Scenic Santa Ritas via Earth Island Journal

Canadian-backed mine proceeds despite overwhelming local opposition.

The proposed Rosemont Mine sits near the northern crest of the Santa Rita Mountains in southeastern Arizona.  The open pit copper mine would have a general mine footprint of roughly 10 square miles.  The mine pit, tailings dump, waste rock dump, and buildings alone account for 4,500 acres of National Forest lands subject to the 1872 Mining Law, which asserts that mining is the most important use of public lands.

The mine’s current proponent and financier is Augusta Resources, a Canadian junior mining Company which has never operated a successful mine but has left a wake of environmental problems at one that it tried to develop in Sardinia, Italy.  Despite the 1872 Mining Law originally intending to settle the west by American homesteaders and small scale miners, today the law is the very basis for the Rosemont Mine moving ahead despite overwhelming local opposition and insurmountable environmental impacts, particularly involving water and recreation (such as the Arizona Trail which would need to be rerouted away from the mine).

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement Issued by the Coronado National Forest determined that 63 surface springs, essential to rare wildlife such as the jaguar, would be destroyed.  Seasonal streams and creeks below the mine site would no longer flow, potentially impacting vegetation and trees also critical to wildlife.  The mine would create a “sink” around the pit, lowering the water table in the region as groundwater is continually pumped from the pit in order to operate the mine.  This water would then be sent to an offsite groundwater storage location – part of the Central Arizona Project water management system – but this would have no recharge benefits to the Santa Rita Mountains, leaving many nearby residents with water wells that may become useless.  This harsh reality, as well as the scenic and health impacts of a mega-mine, have already affected real estate prices, and some have already moved away before their losses become unacceptable.

Local Opposition

In June 2013, Earthworks visited numerous stakeholders vehemently opposed to the project, including ranchers, religious leaders, equestrians, and retirees living within a few miles of the mine site.  From their stories, it became clear that there are very few people on the east side (the mine side) of the Santa Rita Mountains that support the mine.  There is also major opposition from agricultural interests on the west side of the range, near Green Valley – an area just miles from two major operating copper mines. 

The mine spurred the creation of a nonprofit group called Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, which has a bipartisan Board of Directors and enjoys the support of Pima County Supervisor Ray Carrol.   Other groups, such as the Sky Island Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, are also involved with the fight against the Rosemont Mine.

Current Status

On December 12, 2013, Augusta Resources announced it has received a key permit from the Coronado National Forest needed to build the mine. 

However, the US Environmental Protection Agency has the ability to deny the mine's Clean Water Act permit, and isn't necessarily bound by the Mining Law.  Fortunately, they've already indicated they may do so.  


For more information:

Tagged with: santa ritas, rosemont, mining, augusta resources, arizona

On Twitter

.@EPA Testing Methods To Detect #Fracking Water Contamination | @spogburn in @KUCN bit.ly/1phYw24
RT @insideclimate: Are you going to the @peoplesclimate march in Sept??? If yes, @jackcushmanjr wants to hear why...ping him.

On Facebook