TUCSON, Ariz. - Jobs and economics versus protecting the environment, water and wildlife---those are the issues that have faced off in the debate over the Rosemont Copper Mine for more than 10 years.
Now Federal regulators are about to issue a ruling that could be the key to the mine going forward.
The Rosemont site is in the Santa Rita mountains about midway between I-10 and the town of Sonoita.
Some people value the land for its beauty. Hudbay, the Canadian company that owns the land sees beauty in the copper ore under the land----which Hudbay says is valuable enough to create the third largest open-pit mine in the country.
The company says it may employ as many as 2500 people to build the mine and about five hundred people to run it over a 19 year life.
The U.S. Forest Service agreed to let the company to use Federal land to store earth it digs out of it's own property.
Earlier EPA reports said digging the mine would jeopardize water quality for the region but now the EPA told the Army Corps of Engineers it will not challenge the mine any farther.
That leaves it to the Corps, to issue a permit.
A Corps of Engineers spokesman says a draft could be finalized and released in about a week.
Randy Serraglio is with theCenter for Biological Diversity. He says the mine will disrupt the environment, and destroy habitat for endangered species like jaguar that have been seen in the area.
"No open pit copper mine has ever failed to leak toxic materials into the groundwater surrounding it, and all open pit copper mines use huge amounts of groundwater equivalent to 10s of thousands of single family homes. I mean in in an era when we're looking at shortages on the Colorado River and we're scrambling to protect our water supply, permitting Rosemont makes no sense whatsoever."
Hudbay says it will replace ground water with Colorado River water bought from the Central Arizona Project and do extensive work to mitigate the effects of the mine. But several organizations like Serraglio's have active lawsuits to stop the mine and say when the Corps of Engineers permit comes down they'll sue to stop it too.