Pima County deals setback to proposed Rosemont Copper mine
Company says it'll take permit request denial to court
Reporter: Kevin Keen
PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - The proposed mine south of Tucson has been years in the planning. Setback after setback has delayed the project run by Rosemont Copper. Now, there's another one--coming from Pima County. It will likely add even more time to the ongoing process of getting the mine up and running while bringing up questions if it will ever get going at all.
Pima County says Rosemont Copper's request for an air quality permit didn't cut it.
“When we looked at those federal requirements and realized the failure to comply with those requirements, we really had no choice but to deny the permit application,” said Ursula Kramer, director of the county’s environmental quality department.
Kramer says the copper mining company failed to prove, for example, that it's collecting the data needed to show air on the site in the Santa Rita Mountains will be safe. You can read the county's full basis for denial
The company strongly disagrees. “We're following all the rules and regulations,” said CEO Rod Pace. “They deemed our application complete over a year ago. They gave us a draft permit, saying we were following all the rules and regulations.”
Pace says the denial shows the county's continual resistance to its business.
9 On Your Side’s Kevin Keen asked Kramer, “The company says the county has been kind of picking and choosing deadlines and timeframes on its own--dragging its feet. How do you respond to that?” “The county's in compliance with the requirements, the ordinances,” Kramer replied. “We have a set of laws and regulations that we have to follow and we follow them with Rosemont like we do everybody else.”
Environmental groups applaud the county's denial. Keen asked Roger Featherstone of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, “Do you see this as a hurdle that the company will overcome or do you think this could be something that ends the mine altogether?”
“I really don't think either of those will probably be what'll happen,” said Featherstone, who’s also part of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas. “The situation here now is this is a blow for Augusta Resource Corporation (which owns Rosemont Copper). It's a company that scrambling for investors. I think the company is desperately trying to assure its investors that everything's OK. But, in reality, it's not.”
The company says it will eventually secure a permit and another it's been waiting for from the U.S. Forest Service. “We expect to get a record decision by the first quarter of next year, and we expect to start mining by the second quarter of next year,” Pace said.
Pima County says the company has 30 days to reapply for an air quality permit. Rosemont Copper says it'll instead take this matter to court.