Pima County versus Rosemont

Pima County officials seem to be doing everything they can to delay and deny Rosemont Copper from opening a mine south of Tucson. As Hugh Holub wrote, this “delay as a form of denial..scheme involves gumming up the decision-making process with demands for additional studies, appeals to governmental entities, lawsuits and whatever other tactic that can put off a final decision.” And the delay is costing taxpayers in the form of fewer jobs, lost economic opportunity, and lost tax revenue.

According to Rosemont, 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.

One step in mine approval is that of obtaining an air-quality permit from Pima County. According to the Arizona Daily Star, “under federal laws, the county should have made its permit decision in December 2010 – 30 days after the county declared the company’s permit application complete.” The county has yet to issue a permit and is searching for any lame excuse to not do so.

The result of that delay is that Rosemont is suing the County for specific action. Taxpayers must bear the cost of defending the suit due to County perfidiousness to those it is supposed to serve. All of this is especially ironic because the County declined its chance to buy the property before Rosemont Copper became involved.

The mining industry is one of the most heavily regulated businesses in the country, so there are many safeguards on the environmental impact of the operation. Below is a list of some of the regulations mining companies must comply with:

 Mining Law of 1872

 Clean Air Act (CAA)

 Clean Water Act (CWA)

 Arizona Air Pollution Rules

 Local Planning and Zoning Rules

 Historic Preservation Act (SHPO)

 Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)

 Arizona Solid Waste Disposal Act

 Mining Safety & Health Act (MSHA)

 Arizona Mined Land Reclamation Act

 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

 Underground Storage Tank Laws (UST)

 Wastewater Treatment Plant Registration

 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

 Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

 Arizona Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) Rules

 Hazardous Material Transportation Act (HMTA)

 Water Well Registration and Water Rights Permit

 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Rules

 Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA)

 Non-Community, Non-Transient Water Systems Rules

 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Dredge and Fill Permit

 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) Rules

 Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)

 Arizona Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund (WQARF)

 Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA)

 Surface Management Regulations for Locatable Mineral Operations (43 CFR 3809)

 Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)

Pima County is well-endowed with mineral resources (see: “Mineral Potential of Eastern Pima County, Arizona“).   The anti-mining stance of Pima County officials does not bode well for our economic future. The green zealotry of these officials is not serving the people. And, a mine is a terrible thing to waste.

 For another example of mis-guided Pima County policy, see:

 Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, Pima County’s ambitious but flawed scheme

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23 comments

  1. I confess that I am conflicted about the Rosemont Mine.  We could really use the economic development.  But in the Santa Ritas?  I know, I know, you mine the minerals where they are. 

    Having said this, I completely agree that, if Rosemont’s application is complete and if it’s in accord with the legal requirements, the county should act.  Rosement is entitled to fair and prompt treatment of its application, regardless of whether the project is controversial.   

  2. The economic loss in this country continues daily when governments act as Pima County has acted in this case.   Comply with your own laws, just as Rosemont and every other business must.  Stop spending our tax payer dollars on lawsuits and “experts” and models and all sorts of mischief to stop jobs coming to this county.  We see Rachel Maddow on CNBC standing in front of Hoover Dam pondering whether we as a country can “dream this big” any longer, but what she misses is that all of her friends would never have allowed Hoover Dam to be built and if they had their choice, they would remove all dams!  Hoover Dam was built prior to the regulatory build up and NEPA which Rosemont must comply with.  They are doing so, but our politicians, regulators and environmental groups in Pima County prefer that we dream small.  Small number of  jobs, small opportunities and small income.

  3. Growing up in several mining communities it AZ, I remember big toxic dust clouds, playing around ponds of toxic water, dead wildlife, barren landscape, and relatives that died early from atypical cancer.  When you wake with the taste of sulfer in your mouth on a windy morning, Tucsonans will ponder what we gave away for a few jobs.

    1. Taste of sulfur in your mouth? You must have grown up in a smelter town. No smelter is part of the Rosemont plan.

  4. AND what acid wash do they mist to leach the copper out ?  Where is that going to happen ?   Does mist carry in the wind ? Quote:” Under the proposed action, particulate matter would increase two to three hundred times current levels “…

  5. Restrictions aside, I don’t like to see pit mines scarring the face of our Mother Earth for any reason. Long after the mine is played out and the workers are all laid off,  the scars will remain.  I remain totally opposed to open pit mining, piles of mine tailings left exposed to view, and huge corporations creating massive holes in the Earth like the Lavender Pit in Bisbee and ASARCO’s Ray Pit.  It’s a disgusting sight I don’t want to see repeated anywhere near Tucson’s beautiful mountain skylines.

    1. So it is better that we do underground mining only which has far more fatalities and accidents, costs far more, and does greater environmental damage?

    2. If you don’t like mining, then stop using the fruits of its labor such as electricity, your house, your car, your medicines, your groceries, and any pumped water.

  6. Pima County’s actions not only threaten the several thousand jobs that would be created in Arizona as a result of the Rosemont Copper project, but they also jeopardize many additional employment opportunities by reinforcing the perception of many that Tucson is not a business friendly community.
     

  7. Dripped ?  Ever been to Morenci ? I guess its what you call a high drip. Great feed for the next haboob. Tastes like … rotten eggs.  Mmmmmm.

  8. The situation is much different when you are involved in it.
    I moved to (SE) Vail while Rosemont Copper was still in the early phases of permitting and at that time it was no big deal to me.  After several years in Vail, it became a big deal because that mine would be directly in my back yard. 
     
    It is estimated that a fully loaded 56,000 GVW truck will pass by any given point on Highway 83 every 8 (eight) seconds.  That’s the road I drive to work every day.  How long would it take that Highway to fall into a state of disrepair; how long would it take ADOT to fix said Highway before it is destroyed again?
     
    Blasting from the mine causes underground vibration that WILL cause settling and fracturing of structures, even at 10 miles away.  Look up at your ceiling and think about those cracks in the drywall that have been there for years and years.  If I fixed mine, (and the Rosemont mine was active) in would only be a matter of days before they re-appeared.
     
    Although the jobs appeal is more than welcome and the very numbers make sense, a lot of the direct impact doesn’t.  I honestly am on the fence about something of that magnitude (good or bad) in my back yard, but there has to be compromise.
     
    Drive out to San Manuel and take the long way home.  It is one of the most scenic and beautiful drives in all of Southern AZ, after you get past the mile after mile of tailing piles from the copper mine.  I just don’t know if I’m ready for that.

  9. The uninformed abound!   This is a new mine, not a mine of the 1800’s or the 1950’s!  Get real people.  Acid mist?  What the heck is this person talking about?!?!   And as for the “scar”, have you ever seen the final reclamation of the copper mining areas on the Navajo?  Probably not, because you cannot tell the difference from pre-mining to post mining.  NIMBY-ism is thriving, alive and well in PC.  We use these minerals, but we would rather pull them out of the ground in a third world country than mine them responsibly here.  Good luck with that HaveNot.  You will live up to your name.

    1. Sometimes the environmentalists go too far,and sometimes not. Past practices have proven to us that our government protection agencies often times are not doing a proper job.  But, Rosemont seems to have done their homework and proposes one of the most environmentally healthy mines that I have ever encountered. I was impressed.   Rosemont came to our community and gave a very good talk , complete with a slide show and later an invite for touring of the proposed  mine. I left with a positive  impression for implementing this mining operation.  Most negative opinions come from the horrors of older or less responsible mining operations now in place. Rightfully so, we are distrusting. I too had much reservation and initially said , ” I don’t think so”. My biggest concern now is not their proposed mining operation, it  is the level of  profits that will be shared with the state. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the owner’s of Rosemont from Canada? And won’t this mined ore actually belong to Canada? Is the state of Arizona getting a positive return in this endeavor?????  Just feeling that America is selling themselves out in too many ways. I’m for the proposed mining operation , just wish it were done by and for US. Though it isn’t, I still think it will bring us more economic  positives than environmental negatives. They propose to use a lot of ground restoration practices that previous mining operations have not  and/or do not implement. The mined area should not look like the ruins of Bisbee. All pits are to be filled in and replanted with native plants. Numerous controls are in place for chemical spillage, reclaimed water useage and a whole list of other environmental controls are in place as well as improvements to the highway getting to and from there. Perhaps the best thing for Rosemont is to petition for a re-zoning of the area. Get out of Pima County and into Cochise County where 400 new jobs is a meaningful number. I would prefer to see Rosemont offering the 1600 to the locals and the 400 to their already taken positions. Training for these specialty jobs no doubt is needed. Training will be offered and in time, perhaps even better opportunities will arise. I am still voting “yes”. It may not be a perfect proposal , but it is better than not.

      1. As I wrote in the second paragraph, 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.

  10. Blasting vibration – Citizen’s Guide to Blasting
    Blasting does not cause structural damage to houses even 1 or 2 miles away. Wind load is much more likely to cause damage over time. However, if nearby you may feel vibrations. (The linked article from New Mexico refers to coal blasting, which uses much more energy than hard rock blasting)

    Number of trucks on the highway (p16) – Draft EIS
    88 round trips of cathode and concentrate per day. That is 4 per hour, one every 15 minutes.

    Who owns the copper
    It is not Canada’s copper. It is Rosemont’s copper. They are a private company, not a state run company. They pay to extract it and then sell it at the market price. Just like U.S.-based companies do.

    Acid mist – Sulphuric acid market
    Sulphuric acid (used for leaching copper) is expensive. ~$100 per tonne. Misting/spraying/”high dripping” wastes it. Not everything you see on stockpile is acid. Sometimes its just water, sometimes its solution (not acid) recycled from what has already been leached.

    Particulates increase
    Particulates refer to dust and smog, not acid mist.

  11. Did you know that nearly 69% of the U.S. copper production is derived from mining operations located within a 175 mile radius of Tucson Arizona.

    Tucson, Arizona is one our nation’s leading mining centers, the home of many mining professionals, who work in the industry; and businesses that provide goods and services to the area’s mines.
    In these difficult economic times, the citizens of Pima County need our local leaders to encourage responsible businesses to invest in our community’s future.

  12. It’s natural not to want a mine in your backyard.  I don’t want one in mine either.  But somewhere a mine will have to be and it will have to be wherever the ore is.  I recognize the need for mines and the need for us to accept this.  What I dislike is when companies skip out on their obligations to the environment and the workers in their desire for more profit.  Never, ever, take a business person or corporation at their word.  They would sell their mothers into slavery for an extra dime.  Make them post a bond covering the cost of restoration of the land and add a penalty for delays.  Do it so they can’t weasel out of it.  Make the contract stipulate that, no, you can’t go to court for years to try to escape your obligations.  When they open, watch them very carefully for efforts to avoid safety regulations and efforts to avoid unionization of workers.  If you can’t make a profit without destroying the environment and exploiting the miners, then you can’t make a profit.

    1. Mining companies have to post reclamation bonds under federal law. (See second from the bottom in the law pyramid above.)

      The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has promulgated regulations for locatable minerals (3809 Regulations) requiring that the estimated reclamation costs for even the smallest of mining projects be secured by a financial guarantee. The 3809 Regulations require that mining companies guarantee the existence of financial resources to fund site reclamation following mining operations, including most exploration, extraction, and development activities on public lands where the mineral interest is owned by the United States or was patented after October 21, 1976.

      States also have similar laws.

      1. This is good, Jonathan.  But then I have to wonder why the residents of the nearby towns are complaining about the destruction of the landscape and the poisoning of the water associated with the “mountain-topping” variety of mining? What’s happening there if the companies are obligated to repair the damage and the funds are guaranteed? 

  13. If Rosemont opens, we will be able to see it and smell it in the air.  Because of the acidification, wheter its dripped or misted, will expose us to heavy metals leached out of the ore and whipped up into the air with every windstorm.  Heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury will increase  in our locally grown food, water, and air.  The major copper producers of the US passed on the Rosemont, leaving a much smaller Canadian company that may or may not be able to cover the liability of the health risks. 

  14. Pima County has serious concerns about air quality, and I am describing the early deaths of many family members in cancer clusters areas located in mining areas with known high amounts of heavy metal and the best you can say is facts are not my friend ??? Are my pants on fire ??? 

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