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Rosemont Copper Mine hearings stray off topic
Forest Service asks for thoughts on environmental report, gets feedback on mine itself
Reporter: Kevin Keen
BENSON, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - A necessary step for the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine has hundreds weighing in, but not in the way the agency in charge would like them to.
The U.S. Forest Service has released a draft report on the impact the Rosemont Copper Mine would have on the environment. It's needed because the routes to the proposed open-pit mine south of Tucson cut through the Coronado National Forest. The next step in the lengthy process is getting feedback.
“Is it complete? Is it sound? Is there anything missing? Is the science sound? Is there an alternative perhaps that we might have missed?” asked Heidi Schewel, spokeswoman for the national forest. "We will take these comments and incorporate them--consider them--and incorporate them into our final environmental impact statement.”
The report, for example, analyzes the proposed mine's effects on air quality. It also details steps that should be taken to reduce that impact, like watering to prevent dust from spreading.
But during public hearings like Tuesday's in Benson, people aren't offering that kind of feedback.
“In your experience at other meetings, is that what people talk about here?” asked KGUN9 News reporter Kevin Keen. “Only to some extent,” said Morris Farr, vice president of the Save the Scenic Santa Ritas organization. “Quite frankly, there a lot of folks here who are interested in one thing and that's the effect on their job prospects for the future. That's important. I understand that.”
“Whether it be the footprint or vegetation or reclamation--they want them to weigh in on those technicalities,” said Dan Ryan, referring to what the Forest Service is looking for. Ryan is Rosemont Copper’s director of community relations. “It's not going that way. What it's doing is that it's the emotion coming from both sides--'We need this,' or, 'We oppose this.'”
To the frustration of the Forest Service, many are taking to the mic to talk about their support of or opposition to the mine itself at these hearings.
“I've been to all them,” Ryan said. “I think I've only heard three technical suggestions. It's hundreds, hundreds of people have weighed in.”
“Could people do a better job of focusing on that?” Keen asked Farr. “Yes, I think they should be,” Farr replied. “People can say whatever they want when they go up there,” Keen offered. “That's right. When you're standing up there, it's you and the microphone,” Farr said.
Both sides acknowledge they could do a better job offering more relevant and specific feedback to the Forest Service.