The Corps of Engineers of the US Army issued Friday the latest permit required for the Rosemont mine, an essential step to allow the construction of the $ 1.9 billion project in the mountains of Santa Rita, south-east. is from Tucson.
The Corps License is the last major authorization required by the government for the mine, which would require clearing or other disruption of more than 5,000 acres of public and private land. The permit, issued more than seven years after the mining company requested it, allows Hudbay Minerals Inc. of Toronto to place dredging and backfilling material in up to 40 acres of washings, so that many mining facilities can be set up.
This is a huge win for society and much of Tucson's business community, which has been actively campaigning for this project to be an economic benefit for one of the poorest cities in the Southwest. Rosemont will create more than 500 jobs that Hudbay says will pay more than double Tucson's median wage.
This is a huge defeat for the region's ecologists and tribesmen, who called the mine an assault on a beautiful, sacred mountain range and threatened to desiccate and pollute two of the region's most popular coves. east of the mine site.
In approving the mine, the San Francisco-based Corps office canceled a negative recommendation from the Los Angeles District of the agency. The approval was also subject to detailed objections from the regional office of the US Environmental Protection Agency, which deals with Arizona's problems.
In its licensing document, the body said on Friday that the mining company had made some changes to its project since the League Corps office recommended refusal of refusal in July 2016. The body also challenged many objections in her decision.
In particular, the Army reported that Hudbay had agreed to remove four watering ponds that capture runoff from the mine site to ensure that stormwater continues to flow. 39 to flow in the streams downstream.
Overall, "considering the need for the proposed action and the absence of other venues or methods to accomplish the proposed work, the Corps concludes that the issuance of the license is not contrary to the Public interest, "says the decision.
The conflict is not over yet.
Before construction can begin, the US Forest Service must approve a definitive mining plan for the mine, as waste rock and tailings will be stored on the lands of the Coronado National Forest.
That should happen in a reasonable time, maybe in a month, said Kerwin Dewberry, national forest supervisor in Coronado.
Then the project must overcome the disputes. The Tohono O'Odham and other tribes, as well as an environmental coalition including Save the Scenic Santa Ritas and the Center for Biological Diversity, have already filed a lawsuit to challenge the Forest Service's approval of the mine. . Similar lawsuits to cancel the body's license are certain, leaders and opposition lawyers said Friday.
It is unclear if the company will attempt to start construction before the prosecution is decided by a federal court.
In a press release issued Friday, Hudbay gave no timetable for the construction of the mine. The company said the construction will last at least two years.
Rick Grinnell, vice president of the Southern Arizona Business Coalition, a pro-mining association, said that before starting to build mining buildings, Hudbay needed to install water pipes, utilities, roads and maintenance facilities.
"You talk about a year or 18 months of preparation even before they start doing anything to start extracting the ore," Grinnell said. "It will not happen overnight."
In his press release, Andre Lauzon, Head of Hudbay, said, "We are delighted to have reached this milestone and are grateful for the tremendous support we have received. It has been a long and thorough process for Rosemont and the community. We are satisfied with the result and look forward to seeing what will happen in the weeks and months to come. "
The massive influx of public comment on this project, estimated at around 43,000 over the years, has led directly to what Lauzon called a world-class environmental mitigation plan that sets a precedent, the benefits of which will be felt in the community in the future.
But a lawyer from the Tohono O 'odham, Pascua-Yaqui and Hopi tribes described the army's licensing decision as "flagrant". Denver's lawyer, Stu Gillespie, pointed out what he called the total rejection by the San Francisco office of the lower-level office's refusal recommendation. .
"They were hardly treated in their decision. They almost did not talk about it, "said Gillespie, who said the Corps had refused to release the document to the tribes.
In a letter to Gillespie's Earthjustice law firm Friday, Maryann Blouin, the body's attorney, noted that the previous recommendation was not a decision and called the document "privileged".
Grinnell is satisfied that Rosemont's authorizations have finally been successful.
"It's something that many people do not understand. Our world population since 1950 has tripled to 7.7 billion. Our use of copper has increased ninefold.
"Our technology is not slowing down. The need for the mining industry and the products that it produces, especially the copper of our region, is going to be vital for our life, "said Grinnell.
But Randy Serraglio of the Center for Biodiversity said the body's decision to authorize Rosemont's authorization was solely policy-based and would not go to court.
"The law, the science and the public opposition condemning the Rosemont mine project are long and clear," said Serraglio, an advocate for the Center for the Conservation of Nature. "Rosemont would cause considerable damage to the waters and wildlife of Arizona. We will fight with all we have to protect Tucson's water supply, Arizona jaguars and the beautiful wilderness that supports us all. "
The House committee on natural resources, whose chairman, the representative, Raúl Grijalva, informed the corps of its imminent decision, has not finished supervising Rosemont, said Grijalva, a Tucson Democrat.
"The Rosemont mine will have destructive effects on our water, our wildlife and our land, in a way that can not be changed," said Grijalva. "When a mine will severely alter federally protected habitats and threaten the water resources of the desert, this mine should not be rubber stamped. That's what happened today, and that's what the committee is going to investigate before irreversible damage is done. "
But Amber Smith, president and CEO of the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, predicted that economic benefits would begin to flow into the area as soon as the mine begins to operate.
"The economic benefits in the form of jobs, high wages and new tax revenues will be considerable. It's exactly the type of jobs and stimulus we need to be able to reduce poverty, "Smith said. "I am confident that Rosemont has followed all the regulatory guidelines, as evidenced by the introduction of the permit, and I am sure that will be maintained."
"Rosemont would cause considerable damage to the waters and wildlife of Arizona. We will fight with all we have to protect Tucson's water supply, Arizona jaguars and the beautiful wilderness that supports us all. " Randy Serraglio, Center for Biological Diversity