TUCSON, Ariz. - The Rosemont Copper Mine, planned for the Santa Rita Mountains has been the center of a fight that's lasted more than ten years.
The mining company says it's protecting the environment -- and is hailing a Forest Service permit as the green light to dig.
But opponents say they still have strong hopes to stop the mine.
Hudbay, the Canadian company that owns the Rosemont mine site says there's enough copper there to create the third largest open pit mine in the country, 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.
But environmentalists say the mine will depress tourism jobs, spoil the area's natural beauty, disrupt ground water, and destroy habitat for endangered species like jaguar.
That argument and the company’s assertion it will protect the environment has led to lawsuits and a long permit process. But recently the Army Corps of Engineers approved a crucial water permit, and now the Forest Service has approved the mine's operating plan.
In a written statement, Hudbay's President and CEO Alan Hair says, "Rosemont is now a fully permitted, shovel-ready copper project and we look forward to developing this world-class asset."
Randy Serraglio with the Center for Biological Diversity contends the permits ignore law and science.
“We think that they were politically motivated. And, you know, the mine cannot proceed as it's currently designed. It's there's just no way it can be compatible with, you know, our water needs in Tucson with with the law that protects endangered species out there and our public lands, the jaguars and ocelots that are living there."
Federal court records confirm Hudbay has agreed to give 30 days notice before it starts any digging.
Serraglio expects the first digging to be an archaeology survey, required by law to look for Native American graves and other artifacts.