Rosemont Copper: An Argument for Reforming the Process

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

Rosemont Copper:  An Argument for Reforming the Process

Used to Permit Mining Projects

 by David F. Briggs

Last week two events made the news, whose ultimate outcome will potentially impact the citizens of southeastern Arizona.  One was disappointing, while the other offered hope.  On Monday, September 16, the Coronado National Forest announced its decision to delay the controversial Rosemont Copper project for another six months.  Although this was disappointing to Rosemont Copper’s supporters and Arizonans, who will benefit from this important project, there appears to be light at the end of tunnel.  Under new Forest Service regulations (36 CFR 218), once the Draft Record of Decision is released with the Final Environment Impact Statement in November, the Forest Service is required under law to issue a final decision in 120 days.  This procedural change also makes it less likely for the courts to issue an injunction as a result of litigation that will undoubtedly follow any decision that allows this project to move forward.

The other news event occurred on Wednesday, September 18, when the U. S. House of Representatives passed the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013 (H. R. 761). This bill is designed to restore our ability to supply the minerals we require for our economic and national security needs while maintaining the protections provided under our nation’s environmental laws.  In light of the numerous delays experienced by the Rosemont Copper project over the last six years, this is very encouraging news, because it establishes a statutory limit of thirty months on the period required to permit a mining project under the National Environmental Policy Act.  It also places time limits on filing civil suits that challenge the actions by federal agencies, eliminates reimbursement of legal expenses under the Equal Access to Justice Act and encourages the courts to deal with these cases in a expeditious manner.

The necessity to modify the current permitting process becomes apparent when one considers the impact repeated delays have had on our ability to supply the minerals we require to ensure our national security and to maintain and improve our infrastructure and standard of living.  Permitting mining projects has become so cumbersome, it threatens our ability to attract the investment capital required to find and develop the natural resources required to fulfill the needs of present and future generations of Americans.

Unnecessary costs resulting from our open-ended permitting process  significantly reduce the U. S. mining industry’s ability to compete in the international marketplace.  It also wastes valuable resources, which could be better used to create productive employment opportunities for America’s workers.

Today, less than half of the minerals used by the U. S. manufacturing sector are derived from domestic sources.  This dependence on foreign sources for minerals has left our national security needs vulnerable to decisions made by foreign governments.  It has also contributed to our nation’s large trade deficits, needlessly sending billions of dollars abroad, which could have been invested in our economic future.

As this legislation moves through the U. S. Senate over the coming months, I urge our elected representatives to put aside partisan differences and take a serious look at this bill’s potential to reduce our nation’s reliance on foreign sources for the minerals we use, revitalize our domestic minerals supply chain and create incentives for investment and employment opportunities throughout the natural resource and manufacturing sectors of our nation’s economy.

Copyrighted by David F. Briggs. Reprint is permitted provided the credit of authorship is provided and linked back to the source.


  1. What needs to be reformed is the 1872 Mining law that allows a forieg company to destroy OUR public land without compensation and export OUR minerals to China for THEIR profit. Same goes for the Natural gas we are going to frack out of the ground and export to Mexico through the Altar Valley. Wake up Americans, our resources are NOT staying here!

    1. I assume all of the mineral products you use are derived solely from the United States? More than 50% of the mineral products we consume are derived from abroad.

      I’m sure that everyone realizes that raw materials such as copper and other metals are not evenly distributed around the world. Countries that are blessed with an abundance of a particular commodity sell or trade it with other countries for other commodities that not available within their homeland and vice versa. It is trade that permits everyone access to the wide variety of raw materials they require for economic prosperity. Everyone benefits from the international trade of mineral products.
      You claim that Mexico will benefit from the natural gas from United States, yet we benefit from the importation of Mexican oil.
      Your argument isn’t really about who will ultimately use the product, but rather the impact the facilities that produce the product will have on our community.

      1. The so-called “rigorous permitting process” is a formality as long as the 1872 mining law trumps all. The USFS stated numerous times that the No Action Alternative is off the table. Tell me again how much I, as a citizen, benefit from foreign corporations taking my public land for their profits. I will see no benefits from that.

        Tell me again how lucky I am that my government allows my precious fossil resources to be fracked out of my public land, pollute my water, and sold to foreign markets while i’ve been told for 30 years that America needs to get off foreign energy.

        No thank you. I’d rather have my mountain! I’d rather my son and his son be able to hunt my precious Coues deer in the places I did and my dad did. If we keep letting our public land be devoured by private interests we’ll be left with nothing but national parks and wastelands in this once great country.

      2. The process that companies undergo to permit operations like Rosemont was never intended to halt the development of projects, which supply the basic needs of society.
        As for you benefiting from the products supplied by mining, you benefit from these products every day. Look around, virtually everything you use is either derived from mining or made available to you as a result of a product produced from a mineral product.
        And all of these benefits are provided to you from mining operations that occupy less than 0.4% of our nation’s lands, leaving the remainder for all Americans to use for other activities.

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