Despite sluggish metal prices, more than 500 registered attendees gathered at Tucson's JW Marriott Star Pass Resort for the the annual SME Arizona Conference.
Rod Pace, president and chief operating officer of Rosemont Copper kicked off the conference with his keynote address about the project south of Tucson that is inching closer to realizing production.
Pace focused most of his presentation on the new technology that the project will use and devoted the last few minutes of his talk to updating the packed room on the permitting efforts.
The Rosemont Copper project will be one of the largest copper mines in the United States and is expected to have a total economic impact of nearly $30 billion to the United States during the life of the mine. The permitting of the project has been in the works for more than seven years.
Pace announced that the project could be entering its home stretch and if all goes as planned, environmental work at the site could begin in June or July of 2014 with other mining work starting in the third or fourth quarter of 2014.
This timetable is based on news that the U.S. Forest Service said that it will print the final environmental impact statement (EIS) along with a draft record of decision on Friday, Dec. 13.
The final Rosemont Mine EIS was posted on the Forest Service’s website (www.RosemontEIS.us) on Nov. 29.
The physical printing of the EIS begins the objection and resolution period that is expected to last 120 days. Pace said that following the printing of the EIS, which is also expected to be published in the Arizona Daily Star on Dec. 15 or 16, there will be a 45-day period in which citizen and concerned groups can file objections the draft record of decision but not the final EIS. The Forest Service then has 45 days to resolve the issues and there is a one-time 30 day extension that is expected to be used. The final record of decision is expected to be delivered on April 15.
With the printing of the EIS, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can also proceed with the 404 Clean Water permit that is expected to include mitigation plans for the dry washes on the property.
During the challenging permitting process Rosemont has focused heavily on using the best available to technology to create an efficient operation. These technologies, Pace said, will lead to more efficient use of water, lower emissions, the largest dry tailings stack in the world and a mine that complies with Pima County's stringent Dark Skies policies.
Pace said the mine will be built from the outside in with the reclamation process starting with the outer berms.
"It has been a long process but it is difficult to start a mine anywhere in the world," Pace said. "At least in the United States once the mine is permitted we don't have to worry about changing laws."
The remainder of the conference included sessions on mining, environmental, mineral processing/smelting/metallurgy, Mexico, geology, blasting and new projects as well as a lunch address from Richard Ducote, community affairs manager, Freeport-McMoRan who spoke about mining and the media.
Above: SME President Jessica Kogel is pictured with 2013 SME Arizona Conference chair Al Copper, left, and Rosemont Copper President and CEO Rod Pace.