Protect the Santa Ritas

The Coronado National Forest has scheduled scoping meetings next week on Canadian corporation Augusta’s proposed Rosemont Copper Mine on the east side of Tucson’s Santa Rita Mountains. The National Forest is preparing its Environmental Impact Statement, and public meetings are legally required.

Scoping meetings are crucial to determine what issues the Forest Service will consider. And the public still has a chance to influence the project — it’s early in the planning process. This is a vital forum for citizens to ensure a thorough review of impacts to water supplies, the environment, wildlife, and public health and safety.

A fourth Open House is scheduled in Vail, Arizona on Saturday, April 5, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. in the Auditorium at Cienega High School, 12775 E. Mary Ann Cleveland Way.  The meeting will be an open house format,not a “hearing.”  The open house format is designed to allow attendees to view informational displays, ask specialists about the Rosemon Copper Project and the environmental impact statement (EIS) process, and submit written comments onsite.  Attendees may arrive at any time during the meeting.

The Rosemont Copper Mine would be a mile-wide, 4,755-acre, open-pit mine on the eastern side of the Santa Rita Mountains, a biologically unique, beautiful sky island mountain range. The Center for Biological Diversity and our conservation partners hope to inspire a show of force at each meeting to make sure environmental considerations figure prominently in the decision-making process.

QUESTIONS TO INCLUDE IN YOUR COMMENTS:

1. How will surface water quantity and water quality in Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek be protected?
2. How will Rosemont Copper prevent wells in nearby residential and agricultural areas from being depleted, and how will they compensate the landowners?
3. What sensitive, threatened, and endangered species might be affected by the mining proposal, and how will impacts on these species be mitigated?
4. How will natural habitat and wildlife corridors be affected by the mining proposal and a proposed pipeline, and how will these impacts be mitigated?
5. How does Rosemont Copper propose to prevent toxics from leaching out of the waste dumps and into the groundwater?
6. How will Rosemont Copper compensate Pima County for the damage their large, heavy vehicles will do to Highway 83?
7. How will Rosemont Copper guarantee the safety of school buses, tourist, and commuter traffic on Highway 83 given that, every 10 to 15 minutes, there will be large, heavy vehicles carrying dangerous chemicals and materials?
8. What studies have been done to determine how far and in what direction the airborne materials will travel and what their composition will be?
9. What will be done to protect nearby residents from toxic airborne materials?
10. What will be done to protect nearby residents, wildlife, and recreational users in the Coronado National Forest from the deleterious impacts of daily blasting?
11. Given that the mine expects to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, what is the overall impact on light pollution?
12. What will the cumulative impacts be of this mine and other proposed mining operations in the vicinity on wildlife, water quality, water quantity, and air quality?
13. How does Rosemont Copper propose to protect the long-term economic health of local communities?

Other meetings may be scheduled as needed.

For those who do not attend meetings, please submit comments by mail, fax, or email as follows, through May 19, 2008.

Mail comments to Team Leader, Rosemont Copper Project, Coronado National Forest, 300 W. Congress St., Tucson, Arizona 85701.

Fax comments to (520) 388-8305, ATTN: Rosemont Team Leader.

Email to comments-southwestern-coronado@fs.fed.us.

Additional information about the proposed Rosemont Copper Project is available online at www.fs.fed.us/r3/coronado/rosemont.

Visit Save the Scenic Santa Ritas’ Web site for further information. www.scenicsantaritas.org

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

FOR MORE INFO: www.scenicsantaritas.org

MORE INFORMATION ON IMPACTS TO—

WATER:
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.

AIR:
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.

NOISE:
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.

SCENIC VIEW:
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.

TRAFFIC:
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.

PROPERTY VALUES:
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.

RECREATION:
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.

WILDLIFE AND WILDLIFE HABITAT:
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.

ECONOMICS:
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

 

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