The U.S. Forest Service completed the Rosemont Copper final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that states that while the proposed mine would cause negative impacts, Augusta Resources is in line with nearly all environmental laws.
The final Rosemont Mine EIS was posted on the Forest Service’s website (www.RosemontEIS.us) on Nov. 29, following a five-year debate.
The Forest Service’s proposed decision on the mine won’t be posted until mid-December.
The Arizona Daily Star reported that the final environmental impact statement shows that legal uncertainties and significant differences of opinion among agencies remain in the way of the mine’s approval.
However, The mine’s ability to meet environmental laws is crucial because the Forest Service has said repeatedly — including in this report —that under a separate mining law dating to 1872, it can’t say “no” to a mine on its land if the project meets all other applicable requirements.
"The publication of the final EIS is the culmination of over six years of comprehensive environmental and technical studies and analyses," said Gil Clausen, Augusta's president and CEO. "This is an exciting and significant achievement for the company. We are pleased that the U.S. Forest Service has completed the document and sincerely thank the team and all parties involved for their diligence and efforts. With the EIS process concluded, we can move forward and finalize the last remaining steps of permitting."
The good news for supporters of the mine is that the report found federal air-quality and endangered-species laws will clearly be met; rules about state ground water quantity and ground and surface water quality are also likely to be met and a memo of agreement among state and federal agencies for conservation and mitigation plans to compensate for the mine’s damage to historic and cultural resources was included in the new report. It gives the mine clearance under National Historic Preservation Act requirements.
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biological opinion included with the new report said the mine won’t jeopardize 10 imperiled species living in and around the site, including the United States’ only known wild jaguar.
Hurdles remaining for the mine include findings in the report that the mine has yet to show that it will meet a separate state regulation protecting Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek, lying east and northeast of the mine site. The rule protects these streams as “Outstanding Waters.” It’s up to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to determine if the mine will be in compliance.
The mine also needs to gain a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers showing that it meets federal Clean Water Act requirements. To do that, the corps, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Forest Service are trying to work out a package of mitigation measures compensating for the mine’s impacts to dozens if not more than 100 acres of streambeds.
The new report acknowledges significant disagreement from the EPA, Pima County and the Bureau of Land Management with the service’s views on the mine’s impacts on Davidson and Cienega, and Cienega’s tributaries. While the Forest Service continues to say it doesn’t expect major impacts to the creeks from the mine, it also acknowledged uncertainties in the ability of computer models used to predict the impacts and looked at a wide range of possible scenarios for each stream studied.