Some Interesting Questions to Ponder about Rosemont Copper

This post is a guest opinion by David F. Briggs who is a resident of Pima county, a geologist, and has intermittently worked on the Rosemont Copper project since 2006. He can be contacted at geomineinfo@aol.com.

Some Interesting Questions to Ponder about Rosemont Copper

David F. Briggs

Debating the issues surrounding the Rosemont Copper project over the last several years has brought out a number of interesting questions about mining the minerals we require to maintain our nation’s economic and national security.

Opponents of the Rosemont project tell us the copper at Rosemont is not needed by our nation. They claim there are already enough mines to supply our needs. If this was true, why must the United States import approximately 35% of the copper we consume?

They tell us, our domestic producers can develop new mining projects elsewhere. But, if we are not permitted to mine at Rosemont, where do we mine copper in this nation? You can only mine copper from known deposits, where it is economically feasible to do so. Other proposals to develop new mines at Resolution Copper’s project near Superior and Curis Resource’s project in Florence are also seeing stiff opposition by local groups. The Pebble Copper project in Alaska and Eagle project in Michigan also have their critics.

The bottom line is, just about everywhere the natural resource industry proposes to develop a new mining operation in this nation, it encounters opposition from local groups as we are now experiencing in our community.

Do we just bow to these demands and halt development of all new domestic mining projects? If we accede to these demands, where do we acquire the minerals we consume? Do we import them from abroad? In light of our already enormous trade deficits, is it really wise to increase our dependence on foreign sources for the minerals we require to maintain our economic and national security? And how wise is it to leave our national security needs vulnerable to decisions made by foreign governments?

The average American consumes more mineral products than anyone else in the world. Don’t we have a responsibility to produce at least some of the basic materials we consume?

Congressman Grijalva and Congressman Barber have requested that the issuance of the Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision be delayed to ensure a complete review of the project. However, after six long years and more than 400 reports on virtually every aspect of this proposal, what needs to be reviewed that has not already been studied in excruciating detail? How much longer does this project need to be reviewed? Six months? One year? As long as it takes to kill the project? Congressman Grijalva, Congressman Barber, are the delays you have called for really in the spirit of our nation’s laws, which you took an oath to uphold?

Opponents of the Rosemont Copper project argue we should not approve this project because its profits will go to Canada. But are profits the only benefits that will be received from mining copper at Rosemont? Profits from the Rosemont Copper project only represent a small fraction of the total cash flow that will be generated by this mining operation. Who will benefit from the cash flow generated by the Rosemont Copper project? Most of the cash flow will be spent here in America to pay the costs of running this mining operation. This will benefit both southeastern Arizona and our nation. As for Augusta Resource’s profits, they will be distributed to its stockholders, which include many Americans.

Adversaries argue we will not benefit from the copper produced from Rosemont, because its copper concentrates will be shipped to Asia. Let me respond by asking; where do you get the minerals you consume? Are they solely obtained from southeastern Arizona? Or are they are derived from all over the world? Do foreigners benefit from selling us mineral products that are mined abroad?

I’m sure that everyone is aware the natural resources we use to maintain our basic way of life are not evenly distributed throughout the world. Regions that are blessed with an abundance of a particular commodity sell or trade it with other areas for commodities that are not available within their homeland and vice versa. It is trade that permits everyone access to the wide variety of mineral products, which are required to promote economic prosperity. In short, everyone benefits from the international trade of mineral products.

Rosemont site

See also:

Distinguishing Fact from Fiction about Rosemont  by Briggs

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39 comments

  1. Upcoming LWVGT forum on Sat. 10/5, 10 a.m.:
    “NW Unit Meeting.
    Forum on the Rosemont Copper Mine, Joel Valdez Main Library.
    Participants: Gayle Hartmann, founder and president of Save the Scenic
    Santa Ritas; Randy Serraglio, Center for Biological Diversity; Jim
    Upchurch, U.S.Forest Service; and Grant Williams, U. of A. astronomer.
    Each presenter will have ten minutes and then the meeting will be open
    for discussion and questions”.

  2. The copper from Rosemont was supposed to go to Korea. Why should we destroy our Santa Rita’s for the enrichment of the South Korean industry ? It won’t be used by American industry. Period. It helps to make jobs in foreign lands with subsidized raw materials paid for by trashing my National Forest. We have mines aplenty in Southern Arizona and New Mexico. We do not need another water wasting, light polluting, air polluting mess that the taxpayers will have to clean up after. Rosemont and Augusta talk a big talk, but have done nothing to convince me and lots of other people that this mine is a good idea.

    1. The U.S. uses more copper than we mine, but we both import and export copper because copper in an international commodity and we don’t have the smelter capacity to process all the ore we mine. Copper concentrates that are processes outside the country often comes back to us in the form of consumer products.

      1. Mr. DuHamel makes an excellent point, too easily overlooked when debate over the merits of extractive industries begin to generate more heat than light.

        For example, Magnetation is the inventor of beneficiation technology and a rapidly growing iron ore producer on Minnesota’s Mesabi Range. By developing a reclamation process to extract hematite concentrates from natural ore fine tailings and lean ore stockpiles (waste), Magnetation has the capability to ship 4.5 million dry metric tons/year by rail to its customer, AHMSA, the largest integrated steel plant in Mexico, located in Monclova, Coahuila,155 miles from the U.S. border.

        AHMSA produces 3.5 million metric tons of liquid steel annually that is regarded as some of the highest grade hot and cold rolled steel product anywhere in the world—it is licensed by German producers such as ThyssenKrupp, for producing everything from Audis to elevators.

        Much of that metal also supplies U.S. consumer product manufacturers in Monterrey, Mexico (e.g. refrigerators, cars, washing machines) which are subsequently shipped and sold in the U.S.

        All this commerce stems from an American idea for reprocessing ‘waste’ ore at a fraction of the cost of a new mine. Human ingenuity remains the most consistently underestimated commodity on earth.

    2. There are a small minority in this community, who will never support the development of the Rosemont Copper project or any other mine in southeastern Arizona. The damage this type of opposition has done to our nation’s economy and its national security is immeasurable.

      The Rosemont Copper project is designed to conserve our groundwater supply through the use of a dry stack tailings system. This technology cuts the mine’s water use in half compared to conventional tailings disposal methods used by other mines in the region. Furthermore, it also significantly reduces the areal footprint of the mine site.
      Monrad Engineering has designed a LED lighting system for this operation, which will comply with Pima County’s lighting codes.
      The issuance of an Air Quality Permit by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quallity to Rosemont Copper demonstates this project will be capable of complying with the area’s air quality standards.

      As for reclamation of the site once mining has been completed, Rosemont Copper’s reclamation plan is very well thought out, innovative and above all will not be funded by our tax dollars.

      1. Spoken like a true company representative. So what happens to the land after they have dug the copper out. Will they refill the hole?
        If it’s true the copper is for Korea then I say no way.

      2. The Rosemont Copper project has been deisgned for closure. Its areal footprint and visual impact will be minimized by comencing reclamation activities at startup and continuing this important work throughout the life of the project with an ultimate goal of returning the land to productive use following the completion of mining actiivites.

        While some mining operations, which may consist of several small open pits can be mined in such a way as to use mined out pits as sites for waste rock storage from other areas on the site, large open pit operations, like Rosemont seldom have this option. It would take decades to backfill a large open pit, thereby extending negative impacts related to dust, traffic, noise and fuel consumption by large earth-moving and haulage equipment as well as significantly extending the time required to reclaim the areas from with this material had been moved.
        Depending on the mineralogy of the rocks at the site, backfilling of open pits may result in greater damage to the water quality than no backfilling at all. Backfilling of large open pits will almost certainly make extraction of any low grade resources that may remain in the pit uneconomic at some future date. It also ignores the benefits of innovative reclamation practices, which allow a mine site to be reclaimed over the productive life of a mining operation.

      3. I will take that answer as a big “yes” that they are going to leave a big stinking hole that will last for the next 300 million years. How does it feel to support that sort of thinking.
        There must be something more than copper in those rocks they are looking for.

      4. There are some in this community who look at area’s mines as just see an ugly hole in the ground. When I look at the area’s mines, I see the wealth, opportunity and prosperity these mining operations bring to our community.
        Mining is one of the basic industries, which forms the foundation of modern society. Without these basic industries, modern society and the lifestyle all of us enjoy would simply not exist.

      5. In the end when you are done with mining in the Santa Rita Mountains you will leave and there will be a great big stinking hole in the ground that will never go away. Maybe in 300,000,000 years.
        My grandfather was a coal miner in Pennsylvania. Hard coal. Tough and dangerous mining. It killed him from Black Lung. Not like the easy copper mining. Yes easy!!
        The mountains are ruined and the towns are a shell of what they used to be. I am sounding like the socialist/Progressive/anti mining dope smoking hippies who inhabit Tucson. I am not. I am a right wing Republican and 62 year old. You can’t fool me.
        Go dig your copper mine in Chile.

      6. Your last comment was really interesting, because we have a lot in common. My grandfather was also a coal miner, who mined hard coal (anthracite) in Schuylkill county, Pennsylvania. Born in 1896, he began working in the coal breakers at the age of 10, where he picked out shale waste from the coal ores that were treated at the plant. Later he worked as an underground miner. During the Great Depression, he and his brothers were unemployed, but survived by working as bootleg miners, who mined coal from abandoned underground mines that were no longer considered profitable to operate. This was a very dangerous way to earn a living. They would load the coal in a pickup truck and bring it back to house, where it would be unloaded in the backyard. My father and his brothers would remove the shale waste before it was loaded back in the pick-up and sold. Yes, it was a very tough way to earn a living, but he did it to support his family. In his later years, he was never more than several feet from a large oxygen tank and respirator, due to medical problems related black lung, which finally killed him in 1965.

        I have visited the area where he lived and worked on many different occasions. I’ve been to towns like Shenandoah, Frackville and Pottsville. I’ve also seen the environmental damage that coal mining has done to those communities.

        However, unlike you, I recognize that much of this damage was done prior to the enactment of our nation’s environmental laws, which require reclamation of mine sites. Having worked in the mining industry for more than 35 years, I have personally witnessed efforts that have been made to reclaim former mining sites. Are these efforts perfect? No they are not. But they have improved considerably over the last 35 years and will continue to improve in the future.

      7. Landsford Pennsylvania on this side. Grandfather from Wales at the turn of the Century. You know what that area looks like. But in the end there will still be a giant hole in the Santa Rita Mountains.
        I still say go find a nice copper mine in Chile.

      8. “go find a nice copper mine in…”

        Judging by the rhetoric, “right wing Republican” and his “socialist/progressive/anti-mining” counterparts have more than a little in common.

        A venerable bit of teenage logic asks, “What’s in a name…that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

        The quaint notion that copper mining [or any other extractive industry] be quietly relocated elsewhere, out of sight and well beyond US borders, is arguably nothing less than antique environmental imperialism.

        Worse yet—these same citizens are untroubled by thoughts of such large numbers as indicated by our combined federal, state and municipal spending—apparently believing that this is indeed The Promised Land and a mythical 1% will Keep The Promise.

        As much of the world discovers heavy industry, we seem bent on pursuing light thinking…and for what little it’s worth, I, too, am a 62-year old Republican.

        Come on, people…God help the person who won’t think for him/her self, ’cause no one else will.

      9. Just like the gasoline you use in YOUR car,. Which comes from Arab oil. In their land. What’s the difference between copper in Chile and Arab oil. I don’t have any guilt about buying their copper. It employs their people. (What’s wrong with that?).
        I bet their are no Chilean copper mines next to cities of one million with Federally protected National Forests.

      10. Los Bronces and Andina are large open pit copper mines are located within 30 miles from Santiago, Chile (population – 6,027,000).

      11. With the exception of certain tracts of public lands within our National Forest system, which have been withdrawn from mining activities (i.e. wilderness), all Forest Service lands are governed by Multiple Land Use Doctrine.

        The Multiple Land Use Doctrine guarantees that public lands will be made available for all uses, including but not limited to the recreation, ranching, timber, mining and natural resource industries as well as being preserved for watershed, fish and wildlife, natural scenic, scientific and historical values.

      12. I don’t know if you realize this or not, but the largest source of our nation’s imported oil is from Canada. And much of that oil is not pumped from oil wells. It is mined from large strip mines in Alberta (tar sands).

      13. I must have struck a nerve.
        As for hiring Arizonans….When I called Prudential Insurance yesterday, the call went to the Phillipines. When I called my Express Scripts Rx today the call went to the same place. American business is hiring and encouraging millions…I repeat MILLIONS of illegal ignorant Mexican peons to flood into this country so they can make a profit. So I really don’t give a damn about a few hundred miners that could be employed. Go and bitch to Walmart the next time you want to tell me about some jobs from China.
        In the end you and your kind will dig a huge frigging hole in the Santa Rita Mountains and when you are done digging copper and gold etc you will leave and we will never see you again. And who gives a flying f**k about Chile. Buy their copper.

      14. OK…we’ve touched bottom. Evidently you’re insured by The Pru and receive your ℞ by express mail. You’ve made it…”Bo’sun, I’m aboard, pull up the ladder.”
        However, your opinions of others are unworthy of the Party of Lincoln.

      15. You are concerned about hiring American miners in Arizona. You missed my point. American business doesn’t give a rip about hiring Americans.

      16. Fraser, I welcome you as a long-time commenter, but please watch your language, this one comes very close to violating TC commenting guidelines.

      17. If you don’t support responsible businesses like Rosemont Copper, who will directly and indirectly create 2,100 good paying jobs to southeastern Arizona, why would you expect other businesses to invest in our community?
        Opposition to projects like Rosemont Copper only encourages businesses and the employment opportunities they provide to relocate elsewhere. How does that create the good paying jobs that everyone desires?

      18. El Teniente has almost 2400 kilometers (1500 miles) of underground drifts and is presently considered the largest underground copper mine in the world. Both mine and smelter operations are located 75 km (47 mi) south of Santiago. (LAHT)

        Insofar as petroleum is concerned, the US imports about 10.6 mmbd from about 80 countries; we export 3.2 mmbd, resulting in net imports of 7.4 mmbd—the lowest annual average since 1991. Net oil imports from all Persian Gulf countries totaled 2.14 mmbd or 11.56% of US consumption for 2012. (EIA)

        With respect to the gasoline used in MY car, most of it comes directly from the Sinclair Refinery in Sinclair, WY. As it happens, much of the crude oil my firm produces is also sold to the same refinery.

        But that’s not really the point…is it? The nub of the issue is, “Can this country afford itself?”

      19. So you don’t live in Arizona or even close to Tucson and the Santa Rita Mountains. You won’t have to see or deal with the huge hole that will be left.

      20. Why not join with Rosemont and create a lake out of the pit when the mining is done, then people would Actually come to the area to visit Rosemont, unlike the Lies told now by the Progress Haters.

      21. I would not join with Rosemont on anything. And I am not a “Progress Hater”. Guess progress in your mind is having a very large hole in our Santa Rita Mountains. We already have many lakes in Arizona.

      22. Yes on the Lakes, but one close to Tucson, to recharge CAP water, landscaped with trees and camp spots. Now THAT would attract Tourists, unlike how many the Area attracts now, and most of those are Recreational Miners and off roaders.

      23. The geology of the Santa Rita Mts. is rock. The best place to “recharge” CAP water is in the valleys where the basin is sand, gravel etc. The Tucson basin is gravel and sand to a depth of about 5,000 feet. Recharging water is mountains made up of solid rock would not work. And its a long way to pump that water around.
        That lake would not be possible until the mine is played out. That will be in a very long time. Nice idea about making it a lake but wrong place.

      24. Mine life is about Twenty years, Rosemont has a pipeline already planned to deliver CAP water up there, if there is NO water there…the mine will have NO effect on neighboring wells…? It would be the Perfect place for a lake, once full, the extra water could flow into the Davidson wash, and restore it to a flowing stream.

      25. I was also told by a City Of Tucson Water Dept Engineer that the Tucson valley has a layer of rock which prevents putting CAP water into the stream beds to recharge, I had the idea we could have made the Santa Cruz flow, and make a river walk, like San Antonio. That WOULD have perked up downtown WAY more then the Streetcar to disaster.

      26. You make good points. The Tucson Basin is sand and gravel to a great depth. That’s why we put CAP into there to bank the water. Once down it doesn’t go anywhere until we pull it out again.

      27. No, the City Engineer said the Tucson Valley has a shallow rock layer, (probably Caliche my guess) which prevents water from the valley river beds from easily absorbing into the ground water. Either he Lied, so the City could spend tens of Millions in Avra Valley, or…?

  3. Among a host of hydrogeological resources, the following are both current and reasonably exhaustive with respect to the AzDWR Tucson Active Management Area:

    Carlson, M.A., Lohse, K.A., McIntosh, J.C., McLain, J.E.T. Impacts of urbanization on groundwater quality and recharge in a semi-arid alluvial basin. Journal of Hydrology 409 (2011) 196–211.
    Impacts of urbanization on groundwater quality and … – Idaho EPSCoR

    Arizona Department of Water Resources, April 2010. Arizona Water Atlas, Vol. 8 Final, Active Management Area Planning Area
    Full URL (139MB): http://www.azwater.gov/azdwr/StatewidePlanning/WaterAtlas/ActiveManagementAreas/default.htm
    Tucson AMA Sec. 8.5 URL (26 MB): http://www.azwater.gov/azdwr/StatewidePlanning/WaterAtlas/ActiveManagementAreas/documents/Volume_8_TUC_final.pdf
    Tucson AMA Home Page (updated 28 Dec 2012): http://www.azwater.gov/AzDWR/WaterManagement/AMAs/TucsonAMA/default.htm

  4. I received a private email from a friend in the mining business on the export and import of copper. He explains it as follows:

    As to Rosemont, there is a fact that most people have overlooked. The US has traditionally exported copper concentrates from the west coast and imported refined copper in the east coast. The reason for this is two-fold:

    1. The fabricators of copper products are generally located in the East and the Midwest and it is generally cheaper to use imported refined copper than domestic copper.

    2. The US has a deficiency of smelter capacity to accommodate all of the copper mined here. (thanks to the EPA!)

    In most years imports and exports tend to more or less balance out. In 2012 exports were 470 thousand metric tons and imports were 609 thousand metric tons (USGS numbers).

    Thus, Rosemont, as does other copper mined in Arizona, will be shipping concentrates largely to Asia.

    Unfortunately, this is too complex for the public to understand and does not make a good argument for US dependency. However, if questioned, this is the case!

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