The U.S. Forest Service issued its Final Record of Decision for Hudbay Mineral’s Rosemont project on June 7, moving the project one step closer to the start of construction.
The project, south of Tucson, AZ, near the Santa Rita Mountains is expected to produce an estimated 5.88 billion lbs of copper, 194 million lbs of molybdenum, and 80 million oz of silver. This represents approximately 11 percent of U.S. copper production and less than 1 percent of world copper production, based on 2011 statistics.
Hudbay Mineral’s has said it will bring much needed, and high-paying jobs to the area, but the project has faced stiff opposition from environmental groups concerned about the impact that the half-mile deep openpit would have on the environment as well as an ocelot called El Jefe that was spotted on the property in 2014.
The decision that was authored by Coronado National Forest Supervisor Kerwin Dewberry concludes a thorough process involving 17 co-operating agencies at various levels of government, 16 hearings, more than1,000 studies and 245 days of public comment resulting in more than 36,000 comments.
While the decision signifies a significant victory for Hudbay Minerals, the company is not yet at the finish line.
Hudbay Minerals will now begin working with the Forest Service to complete the mine plan of operations that will detail its day-to-day operations. The company must also develop a reclamation plan and submit a bond guaranteeing payment for the reclamation work.
Finally and probably most importantly, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must approve a federal Clean Water Act permit for the project.
The Corps must authorize it to dredge and fill material from several washes surrounding the project site. So far, the Corps has not been favorable to this project but it has yet to make a final decision on it. The Corps' Los Angeles District office last July recommended denial of the permit.
Since then, the Corps’ San Francisco-based South Pacific Division, which will make the final decision, has been publicly silent on the permit issue and has refused to even give a timetable for making a decision, let alone indicate which way it's leaning.
The mine must also survive expected lawsuits by opponents.
The Arizona Daily Star reported that the leading mine opposition group, Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, blasted Final Record of Decision by repeating its past assertion that the decision was premature. It was supported by U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, another longtime Rosemont opponent, who added that the Forest Service should have waited until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed its assessment, “which will be key to our community’s environmental and economic well-being.”
Still, Hudbay Minerals will move forward with its plans for the mine.
“This decision brings us another step closer to being able to build a modern mine that will fulfill the requirements of its permits, create jobs and strengthen the local economy,” said Patrick Merrin, vice president of Hudbay’s Arizona business unit. “The Final Record of Decision was granted based on years of public input allowing rigorous study and analysis of fact and science.
“The Rosemont team thanks the Forest Service and all the other cooperating agencies for their hard work and dedication to the public interest over the past 10 years.”