FEIS delay will not slow Rosemont Mine in Santa Ritas
Forest Service projects FEIS release sometime in November
BY DANA COLE
SAN PEDRO VALLEY NEWS-SUN
BENSON – Following the US Forest Service’s recent announcement that it is delaying the release of its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the proposed Rosemont copper mine, members of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas are applauding what they are calling a “major victory for citizens concerned about the environmental and economic threats” posed by the open-pit mine slated for development in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson.
However, Rod Pace, President and CEO of Rosemont Copper, offers a very different perspective regarding the FEIS process. “Having a firm date by the Forest Service is a positive step for our community and the many supporters who have helped advance Rosemont Copper to completion,” he said. Calling the opposition’s victory a “hollow one,” Pace adds, “The new regulations provide a more defensible process and remove the administrative appeal process, while following a similar time frame. The opposition’s opportunities to delay the project further are greatly reduced under the new process.”
According to a Sept. 16 Save the Scenic Santa Ritas press release, “The Forest Service’s decision allows the agency more time to fully and accurately address the significant criticisms leveled at the Forest Service’s most recent analysis of this project by 11 local, state, tribal and federal agencies.” A non-profit organization of ranchers, residents and businesses working together to protect the Santa Rita and Patagonia Mountains from “environmental degradation caused by mining and mineral exploration activities,” Save the Scenic Santa Ritas formed in 1996 and has been fighting Rosemont’s proposed mining operation since Augusta Resource Corporation announced its decision to pursue an open-pit mine in the Santa Rita range.
“The Forest Service made the right call on not rushing the Rosemont FEIS out before its serious deficiencies were addressed,” said Gayle Hartman, Save the Scenic Santa Ritas president. “When 11 of 13 agencies asked by the Forest Service to review its latest draft all weigh in with significant criticism, you know there’s a problem. It’s time for an analysis that fully identifies the severe, unavoidable and permanent adverse impacts that the Rosemont Mine would have on southern Arizona’s air quality, water supplies and economy.”
However, according to a news release issued by Coronado National Forest, the environmental analysis is nearing completion, with the FEIS projected release date in November, 2013. “Many of the outstanding issues are being resolved and progress towards completion is moving forward,” the release states.
Rosemont’s draft Record of Decision, ROD, will be released following a new USFS rules process that will come into effect on Sept. 27, 2013. The new process stipulates a resolution period as opposed to an appeals period for the ROD. Once the FEIS is released, a draft ROD will be issued for public comment, which is limited to a 90-120 day period. During that time, there is a 45 day period where parties may provide objections to the draft ROD, which is then followed by a 45-day resolution period for the USFS.
Parties that have provided comments to the record in prior public comment periods will be given consideration, and only those comments that have met a “certain level of significance” will be part of the USFS resolution period. All comments filed by the public will be reviewed and responded to by the Forest Service.
Subsequent to the FEIS, the Army Corps of Engineers’ Clean Water Act 404 Permit is expected to be released, a final step in the mine’s permitting process. The anticipated timeframe for the permit is sometime in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to information provided by Augusta, the Canadian-based company that owns Rosemont Copper.
The City of Benson has been hailed by Rosemont as one of the mining operation’s greatest advocates in this region. The job opportunities and economic benefits the mine is expected to bring to the area are endorsed by such organizations as Southeast Arizona Economic Development Group, the Benson/San Pedro Valley Chamber of Commerce, Arizona’s G&T Cooperatives and the San Pedro and Southwestern Railroad, to name a few.
“The City of Benson eagerly anticipates the commencement of construction of Rosemont Mine,” said Benson Interim City Manger Jim Cox. “We are very hopeful that subcontractors will locate their businesses within our business friendly city. It is our hope that any contractor working with the mine will take a serious look at locating in the City of Benson.”
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