Mine backers blast Barber on call for new impact study
Published October 26, 2012
CHANGES IN ROSEMONT PLAN AFFECT WATER, TRAFFIC, HE AND OTHERS SAY
Brady McCombs Arizona Daily Star
U.S. Rep. Ron Barber’s recent call for a new environmental impact statement on the proposed Rosemont Copper mine has angered the mine’s backers.
The Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce held a news conference Thursday afternoon to slam Barber for unnecessarily trying to delay the ongoing review of permits for the mine. The mine is proposed for an area southeast of Tucson in the Santa Rita Mountains outside Sonoita.
“Put your trust in the designated regulatory agencies and let them do their work,” Mike Varney, chamber president and CEO, said in a message to Barber. “Congressman Barber’s recent actions can only serve to delay or kill jobs in our community, and those are jobs we need very badly.”
In an Oct. 17 letter to the secretary of agriculture, Barber asks for the new environmental impact statement because of “significant” changes in Rosemont Copper’s operation plan. He points out concerns about increases in heavy truck traffic, more uncertainties about long-term water usage and the likelihood of leaching of stockpiled oxide ore. He asks for a 90-day period for public review.
Barber said he’s acutely aware of the need for more jobs in Southern Arizona, but he must protect the long-term interests of residents in his district. He said he was satisfied with the environmental review until the company changed the mine plan. His staff spent time studying the plan and came to the conclusion the changes were significant enough to call for a new environmental review.
“When you are dealing with an issue as complex as this that could have a negative impact on businesses in Green Valley, Sahuarita, Sonoita and Patagonia, it’s not unreasonable to ask that the people who are going to be affected by this have their say,” Barber said.
Barber, a Democrat, is not the only one calling for a new environmental impact statement. Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry sent a six-page letter Thursday to the U.S. Forest Service with a similar request. Ray Carroll, a Republican member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, agrees a new environmental impact statement is needed.
Varney insisted Thursday’s news conference – which came less than two weeks before the Nov. 6 election – was not political. He said the chamber is not endorsing Barber’s opponent in Congressional District 2, Republican Martha McSally, either. He said he and others simply couldn’t go without publicly challenging “misinformed statements” made by Barber in the letter sent last week. They met with Barber on Wednesday but came away unhappy with what they heard.
The changes in the plan came after careful consideration and will make the mine more efficient, said Bill Assenmacher, president of the Southern Arizona Business Coalition. There will be less truck traffic per day, the same water and electricity usage as in the old plan and “overall environmental improvements,” Varney said.
Even though mining will be extended from 18 to 21 years in the new plan, only 4 percent to 5 percent more material will be extracted because the new plan calls for focusing only on sulfide ore and scrapping plans for oxide ore. He said Barber has been fed misinformation that has clouded his opinion.
“The plan is more focused,” Assenmacher said. “You are going to have a more efficient mine.” He said the public review process, which has included 20-plus public hearings, has gone on long enough.
“Delays send a message to other businesses that it is indeed difficult to do business in Southern Arizona,” Varney said.
Though they are clearly not in Barber’s corner, mine proponents aren’t backing McSally either in the CD2 race.
She received one $500 contribution in March from James Sturgess, senior vice president of corporate development for Rosemont Copper, but she returned that contribution three weeks later, FEC records show.
Rosemont Copper executives have given thousands to candidates who supported the mine, including $6,650 to Republican Jesse Kelly, who lost to Barber in the June 12 special election; $4,750 to Republican Dave Sitton, who finished fourth in the CD8 special election GOP primary; and $7,750 to Republican Gabriela Saucedo Mercer, a CD3 candidate.
McSally, a retired Air Force colonel, says she’s pro-mining in general and had hoped to be able to give the mine her full backing. But after meeting with both sides, she came to the conclusion the concerns about water levels, water quality and impacts on eco-tourism are legitimate. She owns land near Elgin, which is in the same general area as the mine.
“I am going to be focusing on not picking winners and losers, but on providing that oversight to the federal agencies during the permitting process to make sure that they are fair and that they are timely,” McSally said last month.
Barber, who was elected to finish former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ term in the old Congressional District 8, has said he is not against mining but that the Rosemont mine is in the wrong place and done the wrong way. His principal concern is that the mine will further deplete the aquifer in the area.
“Yes, it will bring jobs,” Barber said. “But how many jobs will be lost as a result?”
Assenmacher called concerns about water a “distortion of facts.” He said Rosemont Copper has offered to extend the Central Arizona Project into Green Valley, put in a recharge station and vowed to put back as much water as it takes out.
But Barber said getting water from the CAP to replenish the aquifer is an idea but not a certainty.
On StarNet: Learn more about the candidates, propositions and latest news on local elections at azstarnet.com/elections
Reporter Carli Brosseau contributed to this story. Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or email@example.com. On Twitter @BradyMcCombs
Public Hearing Draws Opinions
Published October 15, 2012
Pros and cons of Rosemont Copper permits were recently discussed at this public hearing.
So. AZ residents discuss pros and cons of copper mine
Published October 13, 2012
Posted: Oct 09, 2012 10:24 PM MST Updated: Oct 10, 2012 10:17 AM MST
By Sonu Wasu – email
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -Tonight, southern Arizonans are talking about the pluses and minuses of the controversial Rosemont Copper mine in Vail.The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has issued a draft air quality permit for Rosemont’s planned open pit operation in the Santa Rita mountains, southeast of Tucson.
Opponents of the copper mine say the copper mine tailings, leftovers after a mining operation, from Rosemont will be 850 feet high. That’s 3 times taller than this tallest building in Tucson.
“We’re going to be 6 miles away from the center of the mine pit,” said Greg Shinsky, who opposes the project.
“If the wind blows in the right direction., which everyday the westerlies blow in our direction, we’re going to end up with lots of dust in the air,” he said.
“It’s kind of hard for me to imagine how an open pit mine with dry tailings will not omit toxic polluted dust into the community,” said Gayle Hartman, who is against the mine.
The scenic Santa Rita Mountains are one of the many treasures of Arizona. But, ask some people and so is the copper buried deep within these mountains, which is worth a lot.
“Most people don’t realize it but at the turn of the century. One out of four people in Arizona worked in a mine,” said Bill Assenmacher, with the Southern Arizona Business coalition.
“The star in the middle of the Arizona flag isn’t gold. It’s copper,” he said.
“You can’t stop progress. It’s got to happen,” said Dave Williams, in support of the mine.
As the deadline to make a decision gets closer, emotions on both sides of the fence are heating up.
“It always gets more emotional. The other side knows they’re going to be overwhelmed, it’s gotta go. It has to happen. Just NIMBY logic again that’s what it’s all about,” Williams said.
NIMBY stands for “not in my backyard”. Concerned residents say sure, but it is everyone’s back yard. They worry about the long term effects at the cost of short term gains.
It would create a $1 billion income for Pima County and about 450 jobs.
“Well, I have to laugh. If you count the jobs, 400-450, that’s 1/10% of the economy of Pima County,” said Hartman.
“In the old days they didn’t give a hoot. should we care? Absolutely. That’s what this is about, making sure they’re in compliance. They’ll do the best job they can,” Williams said.
Those who didn’t make it tonight’s hearing can still have their say by contacting Arizona Department of Environmental Quality,
Copyright 2012 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.
Mining and The Bureauocracy
Published October 10, 2012
by Jonathan DuHamel on Oct. 10, 2012
From the Tucson Citizen
To maintain a healthy economy, our industries need reliable access to raw materials. The American mining industry helps fill that need by providing good, relatively high-paying jobs and the critical minerals we need to bolster our economy and provide the materials that keep us going. Yet, government, especially the federal government, seems to put many roadblocks in the way of developing our abundant natural resources.
In Arizona we are witnessing governmental delays in the permitting process for the Rosemont copper mine south of Tucson. Near the small town of Dragoon, Arizona, a proposed marble mine has been delayed for more than 15 years due to US Forest Service bureaucracy including establishing a Roadless Area which encompasses the quarry site, even though there is a dedicated county road to the quarry. In Alaska, the EPA is delaying what could be one of the largest copper and gold mines in the world, the Pebble mine, because of some unwarranted concern over salmon.
Some of the permitting delays are due to activists in government and radical environmentalists who don’t want any development. But much of the delay is caused by inefficiency and lack of coordination in and among federal agencies.
Hal Quinn, president of the National Mining Association notes that permit delays are among the biggest hurdles for mineral development. “The length, complexity and uncertainty of the permitting process are the primary reasons investors give for not investing is U.S. minerals mining. In the U.S., necessary government authorizations now take close to 10 years to secure, resulting in decreased competitiveness and increased reliance on foreign sources of minerals.”
These bureaucratic delays affect businesses other than mining, because the supply of raw materials gets harder to obtain and more expensive.
This is not just a recent problem, but one that is growing as more and more agencies are embracing “green” or “sustainable” principles. In 1999, the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council found that: “The process has become much slower and more costly than was originally intended or than it needs to be. It commonly imposes data collection and analysis requirements on the applicant and the regulatory agency that are poorly coordinated, excessively expensive, and of uneven value in protecting the environment. Mining operators are entitled to a permitting process that is as timely and cost effective as possible while still achieving compliance with all statutes and regulations.” There has been no improvement since that study.
Quinn notes that “Behre Dolbear, the international consulting firm that advises mining companies globally, has identified the U.S. as having one of the longest permitting processes in the world for mining projects, placing domestic mining investments at a competitive disadvantage.” It also means that we will need to import more and more of our minerals.
The US Geological Survey studied domestic permitting and found that “permitting time frames are often lengthy and unpredictable” sometimes taking as long as 17 years and even with an “expedited permitting schedule” taking seven years.
Quinn says that “more efficient permitting does not mean less environmental protection.” Among the needed reforms in the permitting process are:
Clearly defining the responsibilities of a lead agency to include the establishment of binding time frames, coordination with other agencies and reliance on existing data and reviews. Limiting the total review process for issuing permits to 30 months unless signatories to the permitting time line agree to an extension. Reduce delays posed by litigation over permitting decisions by requiring challenges to be filed within 60 days of the final agency action.
It’s not just the mining industry that suffers under a bureaucratic bottleneck. Investor’s Business Daily notes that the Obama administration has issued more regulations than Bush and Clinton combined. Just the EPA and Department of Transportation have increased the regulatory burden on manufacturing by $142 billion per year.
If you want your automobiles and iPhones, a reliable electricity supply, transportation, and jobs, we need to cut the red tape and make access to and production of the raw materials for industry more efficient and timely. That can all be done while providing rational environmental protection and in doing so will prove to be a boon to our economy.
Copyrighted by Jonathan DuHamel.
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ADEQ Air Permit Public Hearing- Information- October 9th
Published October 8, 2012
Our goal here is to provide basic speaking points that will assist you in commenting to the staff of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). As most are not experts with respect to specifics in this area, most do understand the basic rules of law and what we really want ADEQ to know is that we support the law. Further, we ask ADEQ issue the Air Permit under the law as soon as possible. Jobs are needed and Rosemont has met or exceeded every requirement under the law. Finally, please thank ADEQ for doing what Pima County should have done under the law.
SABC will be available for questions prior to the public forum at Sycamore Elementary School from 5-6 pm, look for signs to the meeting room.
ADEQ Public Hearing from 6:00 pm, Sycamore Elementary School, Multi-Purpose Building, 16701 S. Houghton Road
If you can not attend, please submit your comments to ADEQ at:RosemontAirPermit@AZDEQ.gov
Below are a few specifics that are factual and can be incorporated. Also, please be respectful of all comments regardless of opinions. This is an opportunity to focus on the principles of the issues, not argue with the personalities.
Rick Grinnell, VP
Southern Arizona Business Coalition
ADEQ action’s to take over the permit processing from Pima County were justified and correct as Pima County acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner towards Rosemont noted in the Court’s ruling. The permitting process must be focused on enforcing the regulations and ensuring public safety not a political process.