Review ‘Helvetia-Rosemont: Arizona’s Hardscrabble Mining Camp’

I was invited to write a review of a new paper by fellow geologist David Briggs.

This review appears in Arizona Geology e-Magazine.

David Briggs tells a compelling story of the Helvetia-Rosemont Mining District in the Santa Rita Mountains of southern Arizona from the 1690s to the present day. The paper describes the history of the Helvetia subdistrict on the west side of the mountains and the Rosemont subdistrict on the east side of the mountains. It is a well-told story of the people, conditions, conflicts, businesses, and development of transportation and mining technology in the area.

LINK: Helvetia-Rosemont: Arizona’s Hardscrabble Mining Camp

The story includes the ups and downs of mining ventures, fortunes made and lost, and politics of the region. Briggs gives us a glimpse of what life was like in the mining towns, describes some of the colorful characters, and what conditions miners endured within the mines.

The paper includes a brief explanation of porphyry copper deposits in general and the specific geology of the mines. He describes the smelter which processed ore from the district and ore imported from other areas. There is a section on the historic production of the area. There were three main periods of copper production, one from 1900 until 1910, a second during World War I and a third that began during the early 1940s and continued until 1960.

Briggs provides a history of regulation in the area beginning with establishment of the Santa Rita Forest Reserve in April 1902. Augusta Resources acquired the properties in 2005 and after extensive exploration sold them to Hudbay Minerals in 2014. Briggs describes their modern exploration and the still on-going regulatory controversies.

Historic and contemporary photos and maps enhance the narrative. The story is well-documented by an extensive list of references.

As a whole, the story of the Helvetia-Rosemont area is very interesting and presents a picture of the colorful history of mining in Arizona.

Briggs ends his story with this: “A victim of competing visions of Arizona’s future, efforts to resume production in the Helvetia-Rosemont remain on hold as appeals work their way through the courts. Only time will tell, whether the Helvetia-Rosemont Mining District remains Arizona’s hardscrabble mining camp or assumes its hard-earned place as one of America’s largest  copper producers.”

Reviewer Jonathan DuHamel is a retired exploration geologist.

Citation: Briggs, D.F., 2020, Helvetia-Rosemont: Arizona’s Hardscrabble Mining Camp. Arizona Geological Survey Contributed Report CR-20-A, 65 p.

Ocelots – an occasional Arizona visitor

Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) are medium-sized, spotted neotropical cats whose principal range is Central and South America. They also occur in Mexico, South Texas, and occasionally in southern Arizona.

Juvenile bobcats and mountain lions may be mistaken for ocelots because they, too, are spotted. Another spotted cat is the Margay, but it is much smaller, about the size of a house cat.

Full-grown ocelots have a head and body length of 22 to 38 inches, a tail length of 8 to 10 inches. They can weigh between 18 and 35 pounds. The smaller ocelots tend to occur in the northern part of their range. Ocelots are quite varied depending on location and there are 10 recognized subspecies.

Ocelots have a distinctive bright white spot within black on the back of their ears. Their short smooth body fur is creamy colored on the sides and back and whitish underneath. Both areas sport black spots.

According to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, “Ocelots prefer dense thornscrub, live oak scrub, or riparian areas with an overstory cover.”

Ocelots hunt mainly at night, but may be seen during cloudy or rainy days. Ocelots are solitary animals that maintain territories which are scent-marked by urine spraying and forming dung piles. Males have territories up to 18 square miles. Females have territories of up to 6 square miles. Male territories can overlap several female territories. Social interaction is minimal.

Ocelots feed on a variety of small mammals and birds, as well as some reptiles, amphibians, and fish. They also take young pigs, kids, and lambs, and domestic poultry. Ocelot dens may be a cave in a rocky bluff, a hollow tree, or the densest part of a thorny thicket. Two young are born in late summer or fall. Like other young of the cat family, they are covered with a scanty growth of hair, and the eyes are closed at birth. Gestation has been estimated to last 70-80 days and captive kittens opened their eyes 15-18 days after birth. (Source)

Arizona Game & Fish Department biologists investigate and keep track of ocelot sightings in Arizona. See reports and photos: Feb 5, 2012 in Huachuca Mountains, and another report of the same incident here. Sighting in Cochise County, Dec 2, 2011.

An ocelot was photographed between April 8 and May 21, 2014 near the site of the proposed Rosemont mine in the Santa Rita Mountains according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service. That sighting came two days before the U.S. Forest Service delayed its final decision on the $1.2 billion mine project, in part because of the ocelot. – Arizona Daily Star

Ocelots have been extensively hunted for their fur, kept as pets, and worshiped by ancient Central and South American cultures.

Rosemont and some troublesome cats

In its much too long journey through the byzantine maze of environmental regulations, Rosemont Copper has endured much in its quest to permit an open pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson.

Some of the impediments to a permit involved the cats of the desert. First was the jaguar (see Jaguars and Junk Science) and now it’s the ocelot. Both cats have a similar range and habitat, and transients are seen occasionally in southern Arizona. A male ocelot was photographed in April and May of this year prompting the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to reopen study of the mine’s impact on endangered species. Arizona Game & Fish reports an ocelot was photographed in the Huachuca Mountains last February. Prior to that, however, “Only one other ocelot, an animal run over near Globe in April 2010, has been confirmed in Arizona since the mid 1960s.”

Since both jaguars and ocelots are transients, there should be no impact on the species as a whole because most jaguars and ocelots live south of the U.S. The map below shows the range of the jaguar.

Jaguar range.

Rosemont was scheduled to receive final approval from the Forest Service this month; now that has been delayed because of the new ocelot sightings. Both cats were covered in the approved Environmental Impact Statement and mitigation for the jaguar would necessarily cover the ocelot. I don’t understand why FWS considers the recent sighting significant. I also find the timing suspicious.

So, in a cynical vein, I predict that some other desert cats will miraculously appear in the Santa Rita Mountains: the jaguarundi and possibly the margay.



The jaguarundi is small, unspotted cat with three distinct coat colors: black, gray, and reddish. It is twice the size of an ordinary house cat with short, rounded, widely spaced ears, a long neck; long body and tail; short legs with the hind legs being longer than the front legs. Arizona Game & Fish says this cat is occasionally reported from the Chiricahua Mountains, and from the upper San Pedro River and Huachuca Mountains to the Santa Rita Mountains, and the eastern Tohono O’odham Reservation.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum had a jaguarundi on display, but when it passed the museum decided to not get another one because they no longer represented a fauna of the Sonoran Desert. ASDM says jaguarundis are the Sonoran Desert’s mystery cats. There are a number of jaguarundi sightings in Arizona each year, but a hide or skull has never been found, nor a photograph taken of one in the wild.

The jaguarundi ranges through much of South and Central America into Mexico.

Jaguarundi  range map

The Margay is similar in appearance to the ocelot, but it is smaller. Margays are adapted to live in tropical forests and hunt in trees. It can turn its ankles 180 degrees and climb down trees head first. Its range is nearly identical to that of the jaguarundi. According to FWS, the last recorded margay in the U.S. was in Texas in 1852.

Below are photos of an ocelot and a margay to show their similar appearance.



I have worked around many open pit mines and have observed wildlife seemingly undeterred. I have observed many Bighorned Sheep in and around the Silver Bell and Morenci mines. At the Tyrone mine near Silver City, New Mexico, deer often graze within the shop and office areas, and I have seen bears on the mine dumps. The Palabora mine in South Africa often had problems with elephants romping within the open pit.

Environmental regulations have their purpose, but sometimes the process becomes all important because that’s what keeps bureaucrats employed. It’s time to speed up and simplify the process so we can get to the results.

See also:
Rosemont and the Cuckoo scam
How NEPA crushes productivity

This story appeared first in the Arizona Daily Independent.

Environmental Sophistry

Sophistry: n. A deliberately invalid argument displaying ingenuity in reasoning in the hope of deceiving someone.

When comparing economic activity and the state of the environment among countries, we see that a robust economy pays for a cleaner environment, but environmentalists relentlessly attack commerce and the profit motive as the root source of most environmental problems. In our current quest for clean and secure energy supplies, for instance, we see that there are some environmental groups  who are against just about every means of commercial energy production including nuclear generation,  hydroelectric generation, coal-fire plants, geothermal plants, wind farms, solar installations, and drilling to increase domestic petroleum supplies.

Some environmentalists are very good at lying and their sophistry is compelling to the ill-informed. I classify environmentalists into four groups: the elitists, the true believers, the warm & fuzzy crowd and the pragmatists.

 The pragmatists

 In my bias, I classify all natural resource producers, including ranchers and farmers,  as pragmatists; they are seekers of what works. Pragmatists are the true environmentalists dedicated to good stewardship and conservation, because it is in their own best economic interest to do so. Of late, however, the pragmatists have been eclipsed by the “better vision” of pseudo-environmentalists, especially the climate alarmists.

The elitists

Elitists, or as Thomas Sowell calls them, the “anointed,” think they know better (see Sowell’s book, “The Vision of the Anointed“). “The refrain of the anointed is we already know the answers, there’s no need for more studies …. Problems exist only because other people are not as wise or as caring, or not as imaginative and bold, as the anointed.” writes Sowell. “Evidence is seldom asked or given — and evidence to the contrary is often either ignored or answered only by a sneer.”  For the “anointed”, who are often charismatic, articulate and well-educated (some educated beyond their intelligence), the end justifies the means. And, unfortunately, both the end and the means are often based on a socialistic philosophy antagonistic to individual freedom and private property. Sowell lists four principal characteristics of the “anointed” which are true regardless of the issue:

 1) Assertions of a great danger to the whole society, a danger to which the masses of people are oblivious.

2) An urgent need for action to avert impending catastrophe.

3) A need for government to drastically curtail the dangerous behavior of the many, in response to the prescient conclusions of the few.

4) A disdainful dismissal of arguments to the contrary as either uninformed, irresponsible, or motivated by unworthy purposes.

While some elitists may have benign, but misguided, motives, many pander to our desire to do the right thing, simply for personal gain and power.  Does Al Gore, who has made millions on his climate scam come to mind, or does he fit into the next group?

 The true believers

 A subset of the “anointed” are the true believers. These people generally don’t have a clue of how things work, but possess a religious zeal perverted by the siren call of the elitists.  True believers aren’t burdened by facts and generally cannot be swayed from their utopian ideals. Like many religious fanatics, they feel justified in using any tactic to defeat the infidels.  I put some opponents of the Rosemont mine into this group and some into the next.

The warm & fuzzies

 The warm & fuzzy crowd make up the bulk of membership in the mainstream environmental groups. Generally well-meaning, they, too, are often ignorant of the way things work and fall victim to the elitist’s sophistry. These folks can become pragmatists once given the facts and shown how the elitist’s flawed vision affects them adversely.

 Which group do you think EPA staffers fall into?  How about the Pima County board of supervisors?

 Why do environmentalist sophists do what they do?  Some, for money and power, of course; others do it because of their own flawed vision and distrust of common man. They think they know better, but in reality they lack faith in human ingenuity. These pseudo-environmentalists have achieved their successes because, in this age of urbanization, sound bites, virtual reality, and outcome-based education, we have lost touch with the origin of things, the things which make the engine of the world work.

See also:

Capitalism is not a zero sum game

Last Primary American lead smelter closing – implications for ammunition manufacturing

The Doe Run lead smelter in Herculaneum, Missouri, established in 1892, will close in December due to EPA regulations on air quality.

According to AmmoLand, “The Herculaneum smelter is currently the only smelter in the United States which can produce lead bullion from raw lead ore that is mined nearby in Missouri’s extensive lead deposits, giving the smelter its ‘primary’ designation.  The lead bullion produced in Herculaneum is then sold to lead product producers, including ammunition manufactures for use in conventional ammunition components such as projectiles, projectile cores, and primers.  Several ‘secondary’ smelters, where lead is recycled from products such as lead acid batteries or spent ammunition components, still operate in the United States.”

What this means, though, is that ammunition manufacturers will have to get primary lead bullion from overseas sources such as China.

“In 2008 the federal Environmental Protection Agency issued new National Ambient Air Quality Standards for lead that were 10 times tighter than the previous standard.  Given the new lead air quality standard, Doe Run made the decision to close the Herculaneum smelter.”  This seems to be an end-run in the gun control controversy.

The Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI) opines that “The all-out attack on Americans’ gun rights is now being taken to the next level.”  “[M]assive stockpiling effort by the Department of Homeland Security has forced ammunition prices to nearly triple, while also dwindling supplies of many popular calibers.”

The new EPA regulations would require an estimated $100 million to convert [to non-smelter manufacturing], so Doe Run decided to close the smelter.  This will also destroy American jobs.

SPPI also notes “And after we can no longer manufacture ammunition domestically we have the UN Arms Trade Treaty to stop the importation of ammunition.”

Better stock up on bullets now.

EPA air quality regulations are affecting not just lead smelters.  There are now only three copper smelters in the US, two in Arizona, one in Utah. The lack of smelting capacity is the reason the proposed Rosemont mine may have to send its copper concentrates overseas. Will we soon have to send all copper ore overseas?  EPA is also endangering our electricity production with its war on coal-fired generating plants such as the Navajo plant in Arizona which provides the electricity to run the Central Arizona Project canal that provides water to Tucson.

I wonder if this will have implications for military readiness.

See also:

Obama’s Climate Action Plan is Clueless and Dangerous

Distinguishing Fact from Fiction about Rosemont

This article is a guest post by David Briggs.  The opinions expressed are his own.


Distinguishing Fact from Fiction

By David F. Briggs

When listening to the statements put forth by leaders of groups opposing the Rosemont Copper project, think about what they are saying. Then ask yourself; does this really make any sense?  Is this logical?  What are their motives for making these statements?

While many valid concerns have been raised by the public, these issues have been addressed during the permitting review process.  Despite this, groups like the Save the Scenic Santa Ritas dispute these findings and continue making arguments that are based on emotion and not supported by the facts or the rule of law.  Other statements contain partial truths designed to support their arguments, which upon closer examination reveal crucial information refuting their position has been conveniently omitted.  Many of their arguments are not even applicable to the point that they are trying to make.

Let’s examine one quote by Ms. Gayle Hartmann, which was made at a Save the Scenic Santa Ritas’ fundraiser held on June 5, 2013 in Green Valley.

“Now turning to Rosemont, what is it?  It’s a wholly-owned subsidiary of Augusta Resource Corporation and Augusta Resource is a Canadian junior based out of Vancouver, Canada.  A Canadian junior is not a pejorative term, it just means that Augusta is not a mining company.  It is a group of individuals, who speculate in mining stock.  And these individuals, that is the board of Augusta, pay themselves very well.  What’s more, Augusta has never run a mine. They have never mined an ounce of anything anywhere.”

Ms. Hartmann’s statement is hardly an accurate characterization of Augusta Resource Corporation or junior mining companies.  First of all, juniors, such as Augusta Resource, are mining companies that primarily rely on equity financing as the principal means of funding their business activities.  Most junior mining companies specialize in exploring and developing mining properties. Like Augusta Resource, they employ professional staffs and highly qualified consultants to conduct activities that ultimately enable them to  supply the minerals society requires to meet its present and future needs.

Although many small mining operations are managed and operated by junior mining companies, others like Augusta Resource are working to develop their first mining operation.  There is no reason why a junior mining company cannot grow into a mid-sized or major mining company.  A local example is the recent acquisition of the long-established Pinto Valley copper mine by the Canadian junior, Capstone Mining Corporation, who will now step into the mid-size company category.

One of the best examples of a junior mining company becoming a major company in the gold mining business is the Barrick Gold Corporation.  Initially founded in 1980, Barrick Petroleum was an unsuccessful, privately owned oil and gas company.  It became a public traded mining company in May 1983, when its name was changed to Barrick Resources Corporation.  Over the next two decades of wise mergers, the purchase of established mining properties and efficient operations, this junior mining company became the world’s largest gold producer.  Similar to what Barrick did with its many acquisitions in Canada, Nevada and overseas, Augusta Resource Corporation has acquired and developed a very promising property that will provide a firm foundation on which to build a profitable business.

Individuals and institutions, who have invested in the Augusta Resource Corporation and committed to finance the Rosemont Copper project, have a very good understanding of the risks involved and the track records of the highly qualified professionals, who manage these companies.  Their confidence in the economic viability of this 21st century mining project and its management is demonstrated by their willingness to participate in this business venture.

The motives behind Ms. Hartmann’s statements made at the Save the Scenic Santa Ritas’ recent fundraiser were self-serving.  However the fact remains, the Rosemont Copper project would have never reached the final stages in the permitting process had it not been for the professional expertise and conduct of the management and staff of Augusta Resource Corporation and its subsidiary, the Rosemont Copper Company.

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

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



Future of Rosemont Mine Very Certain

This article is a guest post by Rick Grinnell, VP, Southern Arizona Business Coalition, in response to a press release from opponents of the Rosemont Mine.

In a recent press release by Save the Scenic Santa Ritas (“Augusta Resource Shareholders Meet, Future of Rosemont Mine Uncertain”) stating the future of Rosemont uncertain, it is apparent that this audience doesn’t understand the business of financing for major development projects or the mining industry’s history of financing. They don’t grasp or refuse to acknowledge standard financing practices of a development of this magnitude. Investors have different objectives and some are willing to take higher risks at the beginning of a project for a higher rate of return, while others may wait until certain  bench marks and goals have been reached. This isn’t the first project for this type of investment and won’t be the last.

This group’s endless attacks have proven to be filled with innuendo, misstatements and in some cases, what I perceive as intentions to slander the integrity of the project and the management team. This team has over 550 years of mining experience and are some of the best in this industry. On a personal note, we here in Southern Arizona are fortunate to have this industry and the quality of personnel as neighbors and citizens. This company will be a genuine partner for many years. The good people of Rosemont Copper are personally invested, serving on various charity boards and organizations.

The opponents of Rosemont have lost every appeal. The facts cannot be discounted by emotional rhetoric and the dissemination of blatant misrepresentations of this mining project. The initial objections  have been answered through an educational process about the Rosemont project. I can confidently state the greater majority of citizens of Southern Arizona are satisfied that Rosemont Copper will bring a desperately needed economic boost to our area and will do so in the most responsible and respectful way possible. This is the next generation of mining.

Finally, I take issue with Mr. Ray Carroll’s (Pima County Supervisor, District 4) assertions that the investors are being misled and, in other public forums, that this project will devastate Southern Arizona. He  continues to attack Rosemont’s integrity without factual substance or merit. His continued sarcastic, arrogant and disrespectful comments are not that of a Statesman, but rather a bully on the prowl to gain personal or political leverage in his quest to find significance in his position.

Despite the continued efforts of the opposition to malign this project, the law, the facts and the integrity of the process will prevail.

Rosemont answers Cyanide Beach

Cyanide Beach is a purported documentary film about the Furtei gold mine in Southern Sardinia, Italy. The film was produced by John Dougherty of Investigative Media. The film is a smear piece which attempts to associate directors of the Canadian mining company, Augusta Resource, the parent of Rosemont Copper, with environmental concerns in the Furtei mine in Italy. The implication of the film is that Rosemont cannot be trusted to be good environmental stewards of the land and in doing so, the film is very loose with the truth. The film attempts guilt by association, but as we shall see, Rosemont/Augusta had no association with the Furtei mine at the time it was abandoned.

Rosemont Copper has now responded to the film in a short video which you can see here:

I have not seen Cyanide Beach, just trailers from the film. I have read material from the website of Investigative Media and watched Rosemont’s video. The following is my understanding of what happened at Furtei based on information from both Rosemont and Investigative Media.

The Furtei mine is a gold property in Sardinia developed and operated by an Australian company called Sardinia Gold Mining, which began mining in 1997. When the oxide ore ran out in 2002, the Australian company abandoned the property, leaving a small open pit which had produced about 138,000 ounces of gold. In 2003, a Canadian junior mining company, Sargold, joined with the Italian government to evaluate the remaining potential of the Furtei mine. Sargold, shared five directors with Augusta Resource. The evaluation consisted of drilling exploration holes and recovering some gold from a small amount of leftover oxide ore. Total production was about 1,300 ounces of gold and silver.

The exploration results indicated that remaining gold would require underground mining, expensive processing, and a large initial capital investment, something Sargold was not willing to do. Other investors were interested, however. Sargold was merged into a company called Buffalo Gold in 2007.

At the time of the merger, the five Augusta directors left Sargold and Buffalo Gold thereby relinquishing any control of or responsibility for subsequent operations at Furtei. Due to the worldwide financial breakdown beginning in 2008, Buffalo Gold went bankrupt, leaving the property unreclaimed.

That is my understanding of events at Furtei.

The film Cyanide Beach was produced in 2012 when it seemed that Rosemont was well on its way to obtaining permits necessary to open a copper mine south of Tucson. Opponents of the mine were getting desperate. According to Rosemont, the film was commissioned by Farmers Investment Company (FICO) which grows pecans in the Santa Cruz Valley near the town of Green Valley. FICO is also attempting to build a housing development on its land. Both pecan growing and housing need water. Apparently FICO is opposed to the Rosemont mine because the mine will compete with it for water resources.

Cyanide Beach is nothing but a smear job, an attempt at guilt by association. The very name of the film is provocative. Cyanide is a standard, widely used, chemical employed for recovery of gold. There is no link between the five Augusta directors and the fate of Buffalo Gold and the Furtei mine. It is also not valid to compare, by implication, the very stringent environmental requirements in the U.S. with those in Italy. Besides the Furtei mine is apparently in no worse shape than that left by the original mining company.

There is an old expression: “Truth will out.” In this case it outed some very sleazy attack “journalism.”

Forest Service closing in on final Rosemont report

In a meeting for press and legislators on Friday, November 16, Coronado Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch announced that the Forest Service would not be releasing its Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Rosemont copper project in December, 2012, as planned. He would not speculate on a new date for the report. The Forest Service released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement in October, 2011, and has since received more that 25,000 comments from the public according to Upchurch. Upchurch is being very cautious and thorough to make sure the Forest Service meets its responsibility according to law. At the meeting, both opponents and proponents of the mine expressed frustration on the length of the process.

To begin mining, Rosemont Copper must obtain approvals and permits from local, state, and federal agencies. Rosemont started the process in July, 2006. I commented on this bureaucratic quagmire in my post: Mining and the bureaucracy.

Upchurch attributed the delay to pending action by several agencies:

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) is considering listing as endangered, or imposition of critical habitat for the jaguar, ocelot and several other species. Under the Endangered Species Act, the Forest Service must complete a “section 7 consultation” with FWS before it can issue a decision. Upchurch anticipates a decision from FWS in January or February, 2013. Note that Arizona Game & Fish recommends that FWS withdraw its proposal for jaguar critical habitat (see here), because “conservation of the species is entirely reliant on activities in the jaguar’s primary habitat of Central and South America to be successful. Lands in Arizona and New Mexico make up less than one percent of the species’ historic range and are not essential to the conservation of the species.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is still considering air quality impact due to particulate matter that may be released by the mining operation. Rosemont will submit updated air quality models this month. It is anticipated that Arizona Department of Environmental Quality will issue its air quality permit in December, which will probably show that Rosemont is in compliance with all state and federal regulations.

The Forest Service must coordinate with the Corps of Engineers concerning impacts on waterways, but this is somewhat of a circular argument since the Corps of Engineers can’t issue an opinion until it sees the Forest Service’s Final Environmental Impact Statement.

There are issues with 11 Indian Tribes. The mine site is alleged to contain up to 80 cultural sites, including burial sites, that must be considered and mitigated according to the National Historic Preservation Act.

Upchurch said that the process is about 85% to 90% complete. That would seem to preclude calls for starting all over again, something which Pima County and Representative Ron Barber have been promoting. Upchurch also said that the water issues are “mostly” resolved. What remains are mitigation for possible impacts to a few nearby water wells. Upchurch sees nothing in the water issue that would preclude the Forest Service from issuing its final report.

At the meeting, one “reporter,” John Dougherty, producer of an attack documentary film against Rosemont, several times commented that Rosemont’s proposed dry stacking method for tailings would result in the largest such dry stacked tailings dump in the world. Dougherty was implying some imagined danger. However, dry stacking of tailings is a much more stable method than conventional wet tailings. It also saves and recycles water. (See my post on dry stacking here.) This is an example of one of the many spurious issues with which Rosemont and the Forest Service have to contend. Dougherty’s comments got no traction from Upchurch.

In general, Upchurch said that as they get more and more information, the information shows that the mining project will have fewer detrimental impacts than some fear or allege.

See reporter Tony Davis’ take on the meeting in the Arizona Daily Star here.

As Tony quoted me in his article: “The process to approve this mine seems endless, and many people are frustrated. ..Maybe it means the laws controlling the process need to be changed.” Indeed, much of the delay is caused by inefficiency and lack of coordination in and among federal agencies. The Rosemont saga is nearing its seventh year in bureaucratic purgatory. Meanwhile, the projected benefits for jobs and our economy remain deferred.

Pima County officials cannot account for time spent on Rosemont Mine

How do we know that Pima County officials are working on what they are supposed to? And how much time do they spend on certain projects?

The Southern Arizona Business Coalition (SABC), an advocate for Rosemont, wanted to know how much time Pima County officials spent on Rosemont copper mine related business over the last two years. One of SABC’s interests was to find out if Pima County officials were using taxpayer money to aid groups that are opposed to the mine, as Pima County is.

SABC sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the County asking for:

“Any and all documents, timesheets, salaries, projections, calendars, meeting notes, audits, expense reports, budgets, reports, communications, correspondence, emails or other electronic transmissions relating to the amount of time and hours worked on any matters relating to the Rosemont Copper Project by any of your employees, representatives and/or consultants…..”

SABC did receive some information but much was missing. Pima County offered three excuses for its failure to provide the requested information:

1) The “majority of departments do not maintain records indicating time spent on a specific project.”

This excuse suggests that the County should change its operating procedures so that they are more accountable and transparent. Businesses require accountability from their employees. Even I, as a largely free-ranging geologist, had to account for time spent so the company could properly attribute time and expenses to specific budget items. Why doesn’t Pima County require this employee accountability?

SABC estimates that 38 County employees spent at least 10 percent of their time over the last two years on the Rosemont issue. That time cost taxpayers over $400,000 per year. And SABC estimates approximately 3% of staff time was spent over the previous 3+ years. Of course, at least some of that time would be legitimate processing of required permits, but how do we know how much. As I mentioned above, how much time and taxpayer money was spent on, shall we say, extracurricular activity that could aid opponents of the mine? Pima County will not or cannot say. Since the County did not provide adequate time allocation for the staff and legal office, SABC made assumptions based on previous information and experience in this issue and estimated that the County spent approximately $1 million on staff time (including Supervisors and their staff), outside consultants and legal fees fighting Rosemont.

2) The County Attorneys Office claimed attorney-client privilege regarding billing records.

This is a spurious argument since the attorneys are either County attorneys or attorneys hired by the County and the County is also the client. The right hand can’t disclose what the left hand is doing? This is another transparency issue. The County Attorney could have provided time allocation without violating attorney client privilege, but chose not to.

SABC says the County “would not have incurred $97,000 in attorneys’ fees had it not abused its discretion in denying the air quality permit to Rosemont. On November 30, 2011, the attorney working on behalf of Pima County found that the County’s ‘decision to deny Rosemont’s permit application . . . was contrary to law.’ Further, a Superior Court Ruling, dated July 5, 2012, determined that the Pima County Air Quality Hearing Board ‘acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner and that the abused their discretion.’ Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has since taken over this process from the County. An additional $15,500 was spent by Pima County appealing the Arizona Corporation Commission line siting proceeding for the TEP power line to Rosemont. Again, they did not prevail.”

3) The County is “unable to provide documents that no longer exist.”

This is “the dog ate my homework” excuse. Pima County broke the law if it did not maintain official records. Arizona law requires the County to “carefully protect and preserve the records from deterioration, mutilation, loss or destruction and, when advisable, shall cause them to be properly repaired and renovated.” A.R.S. § 41-151.15; and A.R.S. § 39-121.


These excuses show lack of accountability, lack of transparency, and failure to follow the law on record keeping. Since Pima County has stated publicly it is against the Rosemont mine, one wonders how much time was deliberate delay and obfuscation in permit processing. SABC alleges that Pima County also wasted time and money by attempting to duplicate work done by 17 federal agencies.

Taxpayers deserve better County accountability no matter which side of the Rosemont issue we take.

See also:

Pima County versus Rosemont

Jaguars versus the Rosemont mine

Proposed Jaguar habitat in Arizona and New Mexico is scientifically and legally indefensible

Rosemont’s dry-stacked tailings will be greener than those near Green Valley