Rosemont copper mine would benefit economy and community but is buried in bureaucracy

The proposed Rosemont copper mine to be developed south of Tucson will provide many benefits to the area.  According to studies, the mine will produce over 400 direct jobs and about 1,600 indirect jobs that will provide about $3 billion in increased personal income over the next 20 years.

The mine will provide local governments with tax revenues of about $19 million per year and create $700 million in local economic stimulus in such things as services, real estate, retail purchases, utilities and manufacturing.

The total physical footprint of the Rosemont mine, including the mine itself, the waste and tailings dumps and the physical plant will be about 4,440 acres which is half the size of the Sierrita mine and one-third the size of the Mission mine.   Even thought Rosemont will have a smaller footprint, it will produce more copper than the Mission mine, about 240 million pounds of copper per year versus Mission’s 170 million pounds.  Pima County wasted $13,000 of taxpayer money building its own model of the footprint.

Among the concerns with the Rosemont mine is water use.  Rosemont is projected to use 6,000 acre-feet of water per year.  To put that in perspective, the Mission mine uses about 7,200 acre-feet, the Sierrita mine uses about 29,000 acre-feet, and agriculture near Green Valley, mainly the pecan grove, uses 32,000 acre-feet per year.  According to Rosemont, “The initial source will be groundwater withdrawn from wells in the Upper Santa Cruz sub-basin of the Tucson AMA basin and replenished by Colorado River water delivered by the Central Arizona Project.”  Rosemont has already stored 45,000 acre-feet of water in the Tucson AMA.  Rosemont’s water conservation and recycling techniques should result in the mine using only 50% of the water compared to older, traditional mining and processing methods.

Rosemont submitted a draft environmental impact study (DEIS) to the U.S. Forest Service in mid-2007.  You can read the study at (Click the Studies tab).  The Forest Service had originally planned to release the study in the spring of 2009, but the bureaucracy has produced delay after delay, possibly due in part to opposition from some local politicians and environmental groups.  (See Local Politicians Against Jobs.)

The Forest Service then promised to release the DEIS by the end of last year, but that was not to be.  Just yesterday, buried deeply within an obscure part of the national Forest Service’s website, the Forest Service announced that they will publish the DEIS in the Federal Register in August, 2011, and publish a decision in January, 2012.  After that there is a 90-day period for public comment.  And then the plan must go to and get approval from so-called “cooperating” agencies which includes Pima County and a bunch of state and federal agencies.

Delays such as this are unconscionable but seem to be the norm with the current administration and its policies of putting all possible impediments in the way of developing our natural resources.

The bureaucracy is exacting the cost of lost opportunity upon us at a time when we could have been enjoying the economic stimulus of a new enterprise.


Disclaimer: I am a retired geologist who was employed by a major copper mining company, but I have no connection to Rosemont Copper.



  1. Interesting article– particularly the water use data. What is the source of that data?

    The copper mine will pay taxes? Really? I’m not being sarcastic; it just seems weird since the state is constantly shelling out tax breaks. A business that has such a huge environmental impact should pay taxes and fees and have a thorough environmental review before construction.

    1. Pamela…you can verify Mr. DuHamel’s water use data from the Arizona Department of Water Resources. It is ironic that FICO complains about the proposed pumping by Rosemont, yet they are one of if not the largest pumper of groundwater in Green Valley. Meanwhile FICO is working overtime to try and block Rosemont from participating in a project that would not only 100% recharge Rosemont’s pumping in the Green Valley area with CAP water, that project would create the capacity for everyone else pumping groundwater in Green Valley to rehcrage what they pump.

  2. Mr. DuHamel,

    Oh, yeah, great cheerleading article for the mining company.

    Because money is WAY more important to Arizona than the environment.

    Oh, wait, don’t we Arizonans ALREADY HAVE strip mines out here?

    And I suppose NONE of those could be reactivated?

    And what about the already high levels of arsenic in the water in the Tubac area due to mining done on the past? Despite the fact that they have a removal treatment system in place, the arsenic is there.

    Has any of your geology clases taught yuo about the effects of chemical leaching in the the aquafer?

    When you are okay with your child developing leukemia, then come back and tell ANOTHER open pit mine is what this state needs.

    Oh, wait, I know what your answer will be, it’s all the government’s fault.

    Also, I enjoyed your disclaimer at the end. Make sure you add that to your resume when you apply to work at Rosemont copper.

    And when the mining company begans their cycling round of hiring and layoffs, come back and re-read your article here.

    I’d LOVE to see your analysis then of the GOOD this proposed mine is for the the benefit of economy of Arizona.

    1. Mr. Foxtrot…I live in Tubac and we have a well. The arsenic here (and on the west side of Tucson) is naturally occuring and has nothing whatsoever to do with past mining.

  3. I am in favor of putting all possible impediments in front of this project; I am not willing to give up 4,400 acres of prime hiking or mountain biking area, 4,400 acres of our Sonoran desert (the tailings will be on public land), 4,400 acres for such a tiny benefit and a huge permanent scar and potential pollution downstream (i.e. Tucson and Vail).

  4. And the results of the mine, a scarred landscape forever, and rolling grasslands of Sonoita gone forever. Some trade.

  5. To get a good idea of how the mine will “help the economy” you need to take a trip to Winkelman, Hayden and Superior.

  6. Why are Americans allowed to consume enormous amounts of copper while they shift more and more of their environmental burden onto the third world?  The third world essentially has no health, safety and environmental protections on par with American regulations.  Our current generation does not know real water pollution or contamination because we import most of what we consume.  Next you’ll probably misuse the term “toxic dust” or some other “boogeymine” word.   But the truth is our old mines today use much better technology and have greater regulatory oversight (and huge legal liability) to protect the environment than they used to have.  We have the Clean Water & Clean Air Acts and many other laws.  These old mines built in the 50’s & 60’s have made a lot of changes for the better, but Rosemont will be using all the latest technology and Best Management Practices from day one.  It will be night and day.  They will use the BMP’s the environmental groups claim they would support.  Which modern, high-tech mine project has any environmental group supported?  None – it’s all talking points so they can say “we’re not against all mining; we’re just against this mine”.  “This is the wrong mine, at the wrong place, at the wrong time.”  What poppycock!  What they are doing is forcing mining onto the weak and powerless – they lead to even greater pollution (just not in our back yard).

    Americans should produce at least some portion of the copper they enjoy.  It is not like we are being asked to share the environmental and social burdens equally.  Quit whining!  Are you not in favor of fairness?  Americans want to maintain their pretty views and they want to selfishly choose to ignore the tough issues, but they don’t seem to mind the continued suffering of those people groups from whom they import the balance of their copper “needs”.  Out of sight, out of mind: most in the world call that Environmental Racism.  That is not the kind of example that a world leader should give.

  7. Guy…..”small benefit”?????  Since when is +2000 new high paying/good benefits  jobs, $19 million in direct taxation benefit and $700 million per year of economic stimulus to the local area considered small?  I guarantee you, to a majority of the population in the area, it isn’t. 

    In contrast, the Gem Show provides approximately 400-500 low wage temporary jobs and depending who’s numbers you believe, $30 million or so in annual economic stimulus.  But how much water is consumed by the people that visit every year?  How much additional pollution is added to our air from additional vehicle emmissions?  How much additional power is consumed and at what cost?  How much of our local resources are consumed?  Don’t think that the Gem Show stimulus doesn’t come with an environmental price as well (it is just that no one wants to admit it).

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