Hudbay Minerals announces plans to drill on west side of Santa Rita Mountains
Hudbay Minerals Inc. said it plans to conduct exploratory drilling on the west side of the Santa Ritas Mountain near Tucson, AZ while it continues to push for permits for the planned Rosemont Mine on the east side of the mountains.
The drilling effort, which will take place in an historic mining district, could last three to six months. Andre Lauzon, vice president of Hudbay Arizona Business Unit told the Green Valley News the company will “know much more and have a better understanding if there is justification to continue,” after the drilling program is complete.
Conducting additional mining beyond Rosemont would likely bring more jobs to the area, on top of 600 high-paying, full-time jobs planned for Rosemont.
It would also likely bring additional environmental controversy, on top of a massive legal and political conflict over Rosemont that has dragged on 13 years.
The company plans to drill 20 holes on its private land, lying west and northwest from the Rosemont site that sits just off the east slope of the Santa Ritas. The holes will be drilled in two general areas.
One will cover lands straddling the ridgeline that separates the Santa Ritas’ east and west sides. The other will include lands lying a bit north and northwest of the first area.
The drilling will be done near at least eight historic mining sites, dating to the days of the old Helvetia-Rosemont District where many copper mines operated between 1875 and 1923, maps of the area show.
Some of the maps are contained in a recently published Arizona Geological Survey article on historic mining in that district, written by longtime mining geologist David Briggs.
The drilling will involve grading two new roads and improving some existing ones to gain access to these sites, Hudbay told the Green Valley newspaper.
The real potential for additional controversy for the drilling program would come if the company also moved to get Forest Service approval to dispose of its waste rock and tailings on federal land. That’s the issue now most at play in the continued Rosemont legal conflict.
Hudbay also gave Pima County’s Department of Environmental Quality advance notice of its drilling plans on Sept. 10. At that time, it applied for and received a routine permit that’s required for any kind of industrial operation that could generate “fugitive” dust.
Hudbay Minerals declined to say if it would attach any mining plans for these lands to its existing Rosemont plan, or file for a separate plan.
If it lumped this area with its Rosemont plan, that would likely trigger a revision of the mine’s environmental impact statement, meaning more delays for that embattled, nearly $2 billion construction project.
This drilling will happen as Hudbay and all other parties to the protracted Rosemont Mine controversy prepare for an upcoming hearing on Rosemont before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
That court is expected to hear appeals by Hudbay and the U.S. government of a July 2019 ruling by U.S. District Judge James Soto blocking the mine from construction.
Legal briefs have been filed by attorneys for both sides in that case, along with separate friend-of-the-court briefs filed by various groups and parties allied with the company and its environmentalist and tribal adversaries.