Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rosemont Mine Alert!

I'm posting an emergency alert on an issue dear to my heart. It not only affects us here in Arizona, but it will affect all of you naturalist and birders also. It has to do with a proposed copper mine on public lands-your public lands, here in Arizona. Today I received the following message in my email box. If you have time and you care, I would encourage you to at least email the Coronado National Forest. This mine will be on the east slope of the Santa Rita Mountains. Ramsey Canyon, a prime birding habitat is just about due west. Having a Copper mine in this area will damage critical wildlife habitat and water resources. You don't have to be a resident of this state to care about or comment on what is happening in your National Forest.

Dear Friends,

The Forest Service just announced three public meetings scheduled next week for the proposed Rosemont mine in the Santa Rita Mountains. This last minute announcement is likely an attempt to keep public criticism of the proposed mining operations to a minimum. For more information, see our website

Make your voice heard at next week's meetings! Tell the Forest Service, "Stop the Rush, Protect Us," and be sure to cover all of your objections to the mine during these public meetings (Talking points below).

+++ Tell the Forest Service: Stop the Rush, Protect Us!
+++ Forest Service Announces Last Minute Public Hearings re Rosemont
Mine Proposal in the Santa Ritas


* Tuesday, Mar.18, 7 p.m. - 9 p.m., Pima Community College Desert
Vista Campus, 5901 South Calle Santa Cruz, Tucson.
* Wednesday, Mar. 19, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m, Canoa Hills Recreation
Center, 3660 South Camino del Sol, Green Valley.
* Thursday, Mar. 20, 6 p.m.- 8 p.m., Patagonia Union High School,
Highway 82, Patagonia.

These rushed meetings are being held even though Augusta Resource Corporation has not yet completed the studies and documentation called for when the Forest Service rejected their second Mining Plan of Operation. Scoping meetings are designed to give the public time early on in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process to express their concerns with a proposal. The Federal lead agency (in this case the Forest Service) is supposed to take these early public comments into account when they prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Recent court rulings make it clear that if an issue with a proposal is NOT brought up during the scoping process, it is difficult to object or litigate on that issue later in the process.

Thus, the Forest Service rationale for rushing the scoping to limit public input is clear - the less the public is involved meaningfully, the easier it is for the Forest Service to ram through approval for a project.

If you are unable to attend the meetings, please send in your written
concerns. Deadline for written comments is April 18. Email: or Fax: 388-8305, ATTN:
Rosemont Team Leader or mail letters to:

Team Leader

Rosemont Copper Project, Coronado National Forest
300 W. Congress St.
Tucson, Arizona 85701

Talking (writing) Points:

NO revision to the Forest Plan to accommodate Augusta

* The Forest Service should NOT revise the Forest Plan to accommodate mining
* The 1872 Mining Law does not require the Forest Service to revise the plan to accommodate mining
* If Augusta's Mining Plan Operation (MPO) cannot meet the current standards and requirements of the Forest Plan, then the Forest Service must deny the plan.

Ask that the process be fair!

* Extend the time period for comments by 30 or 60 additional days.
(this is commonly done).
* Schedule additional meetings to work on the scope of the EIS.
* Schedule additional meetings in Vail and Sonoita, both areas with major impacts from the proposed mine.
* Ask that Pima County, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, and the Arizona State Office of Historic Preservation be included as "cooperating agencies," at a minimum in the EIS process.

Why oppose the Rosemont Mine?

* The Rosemont Copper Project would be located 30 miles southeast of Tucson, in Pima County, on approximately 995 acres of private land; 3,670 acres of National Forest land; 15 acres of land administered by the Bureau of Land Management and 75 acres of State Trust land.
* With the outdated 1872 Mining Laws still in place, an estimated 230,000 acres of public land in Arizona have already been sold to private interests for $2.50 or $5.00 per acre.
* The EPA reports that in 2005, metal or hardrock mining in Arizona released over 39.4 million pounds of toxins.
* Pima County commissioned and submitted a hydrogeological study to the Coronado that raised the threat of surrounding groundwater and surface water depletion from pumping out an open pit copper mine, as well as potential leaching of pollutants into groundwater.
* The Sky Islands of the Coronado National Forest are a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot.
* The Santa Rita Mountains and surrounding desert and grassland seas are globally recognized for the diversity of birds, reptiles, amphibians, bees and plants.
* Augusta has no track record in mining and the mining industry has a dismal environmental record.
* Augusta wants to fill in Barrel, Wasp, McCleary, and Scholefield Canyons, yet claims no impact to the Cienega Creek watershed.
* Of the 117 million dollars Augusta claims in community commitments, 67 million dollars of that is actually just costs associated with the business of mining.
* Augusta claims 350 jobs, but mining jobs are transitory as part of the mining bust and boom cycle. In reality, the mine will recreate opportunities and the jobs that depend on them will be lost forever.
* negative impact on the local tourism based economy
* noise pollution, air pollution and water contamination
* increased truck traffic on local roads and highways
* destruction of wildlife habitat, wildlife movement corridors,
native plants and ecosystems
* elimination or restriction of biking, hiking, hunting, camping,
and bird watching
* irreparable devastation of the scenic landscapes and viewsheds



Although efforts are made to contain tailings piles and other sources of runoff, leaching of exposing tailings surfaces or waste dumps, and unintended leaks from other facilities are common occurrences at mine sites. This could result in the release of potentially toxic heavy
metals and other chemicals into ground and surface waters draining into Tucson area water supplies, and impacting nearby riparian areas such as Davidson Canyon.

There is every likelihood that a mine a Rosemont Ranch as is being proposed would dewater wells currently in use (as has already been done by Augusta Resource Corporation test wells) and imperil important wildlife habitat and future drinking water sources for residential use.

The area currently has excellent air quality. Tailings and waste piles will be sources of dust, which prevailing winds will blow toward major new residential developments east of the Tucson basin. Air quality in the National Forest and surrounding residential areas will be degraded
by both dust and truck exhaust associated with mine operations.

Daily blasting is required to remove rock (or overburden) covering the ore body. The impact to nearby residences, wildlife and recreational users in the National Forest will be equivalent to daily sonic booms.

This mine will be visible from State Highway 83, a designated State Scenic Highway, for 3 miles out of the 24-mile trip from I-10 to Sonoita. The 3-mile segment includes the portion of the highway where it gains its greatest elevation above the surrounding land, at which point
drivers are treated to a sweeping panoramic view of the Rosemont Valley at an overlook spot. The mine site dominates this view which currently consists of rolling hills of grasslands, dotted with oak trees and backed by a rugged ridge line.

Mine traffic, including ore trucks and vehicles carrying heavy construction equipment and explosives for blasting, will share the narrow, winding Highway 83 with school buses, commuters, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and tourist traffic.

The areas south of the mine site have developed into high-end rural residential ranches and ranchettes. New developments are found north and east of the area. An open pit mine will severely impact the quality of life and reduce property values in those areas. The Sonoita Valley, a weekend tourist destination, could be thrown into the boom-bust economy typical of western towns adjacent to large mining operations.

The Rosemont Valley is heavily used by mountain bikers, hikers, off-highway vehicles, bicyclists, and hunters. Recreational use would be forced to move to already heavily used areas, creating conflict with growing subdivisions. The additional loss of recreational lands will aggravate our increasingly crowded public lands associated with Pima County's population growth, and decrease the quality of recreational experiences.

Intensive development of the site as an open pit mine will result in loss of a significant portion of the wildlife habitat and movement corridor on the eastern side of the Santa Ritas, potentially impacting endangered, threatened, and candidate species, in addition to priority vulnerable species or species of special concern. The Santa Ritas are recognized for the biological values and are an Important Birding Area (IBA). In addition, the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan lists part of the area around Rosemont as part of the Biological Core.

There are several priority vulnerable species that are known to occur at Rosemont Ranch including two Endangered Species: the Lesser Long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae yerbabuenae) and Pima Pineapple Cactus (Coryphantha scheeri robustispina). In addition, other special status species are known to occur there: Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Rana chiricahuensis), listed as threatened, and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus), a candidate for listing.

There are six others priority vulnerable species or Wildlife of Special Concern known to occur in the Rosemont Ranch area, according to the AZ Game and Fish Department: Mexican Long-tongued Bat (Choeronycteris mexicana), Western Red Bat (Lasiurus blossevillii), Lowland Leopard Frog (Rana yavapaiensis), Giant Spotted Whiptail Lizard (Cnemidophorus burti
stictogrammus), Rufous-winged Sparrow (Aimophila carpalis), and Bell's Vireo (Vireo bellii). The Mexican Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis lucida) may also occur there, based on its habitat requirements.

Any economic benefits of the mine will be offset by the negative impacts to tourism-related businesses dependent on the area's scenic beauty. Mine employment may be partially or completely offset by the impact of the mine on recreational and scenic values which might otherwise have lured companies into relocating to Southern Arizona and the long-term deleterious effects of mining's boom-bust economies.

A recent study by the Sonoran Institute shows that a mine at Rosemont would have serious economic impacts to the surrounding communities. The report found:

*"..if the proposed Rosemont mine operations displaced only one percent of travel and tourism-related spending in the region, the economic loss would be greater than the entire annual payroll of the mine," Joe Marlow, senior economist with the Sonoran Institute.

*most of the benefits would go to the Tucson area, while most of the costs, such as decreased tourism revenue, would be borne by communities near the mine

For more information visit:



Mary said...

Kathie, wow. Too much is at stake here - water, air, noise, scenic view lost, traffic and congestion, effect on property values and recreation, and most of all - wildlife. I've bookmarked this post and will compose an e-mail soon.

Texas Travelers said...

I may be from Texas but we visit there occasionally and are concerned about the impact. I signed the petition and hope others do also. Too much of our National Land is being sold off to private interests who do not care about the environment. It's time that stopped.

Larry said...

I sent an e-mail asking them to reconsider.-I guess the more people complain the better. I hate to hear about things like this.

Sandpiper (Lin) said...

I hate to read about situations like this. I'll send this on to some of my friends, too.

Kathie Brown said...

Mary, Texas Travellers, Larry and Sandpiper, I can't thank you enough. It should outrage all Americans that our public lands are beign sold off at the rate of $2.50 to $5.00 an acre to foreign interest who will make millions and leave behind a devastated landscape they don't have to live with or clean up! I will be at the meeting tomorrow night and I will keep you all posted. Thank you, thank you! Thank you! The loss of habitat here could affect the birds you see in your backyards tomorrow. I want you all to be able to see the hummingbirds, sparrows and thrashers we have. I want to see the cuckoo they wrote about that may soon enter Federal protection. I want it to be here for the genrations that follow, and, I want it to be an honest process, and not something that is slipped by an unsupecting public.