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 According to Rosemont, “The initial source will be groundwater withdrawn from wells in the Upper Santa Cruz sub-basin of the Tucson AMA basin and replenished by Colorado River water delivered by the Central Arizona Project.”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 http://www.rosemontcopper.com/ (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.