Rosemont report fuels arguments for, against

Economic side boosts backers; foes can point to quality of life
2011-06-19T00:00:00Z Rosemont report fuels arguments for, againstBy Tony Davis Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 19, 2011 12:00 am  • 

The U.S. Forest Service's recent draft environmental-impact statement on the proposed Rosemont Mine has something for both sides when it comes to economic and social impacts.

The statement agrees virtually dollar for dollar with an earlier report, financed by Rosemont Copper, that foresees large local, state and national economic benefits from the project.

Like the 2009 Arizona State University economic analysis of the mine, the Forest Service's preliminary statement predicts billions to tens of billions of dollars in economic benefits locally, regionally and nationally.

It also says the mine's presence in the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson wouldn't discourage tourism.

But the new statement also echoes a key point from critics: that the expected increase in employment and tax revenue will be small, compared to the region's overall economy. That was the theme of a second Rosemont economic analysis, produced last year by a University of Montana economist, Thomas Power, who was hired by mine opponents living near the site.

The new report also says the mine will harm a few homes' property values and overall quality of life.

On the positive side for the mine, the Forest Service's report:

• Cites the Rosemont-financed ASU report's predictions of about four indirect jobs for each of the 406 long-term jobs created at the mine, without mentioning criticisms from opponents and outside economists that such an economic multiplier is too optimistic. It said the mine would have a $20 million annual payroll, raising the total, labor-related income for Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties by 1.17 percent.

• Also agrees with the 2009 ASU study that said total output would increase by $14.64 billion in the three-county area over the mine's life, by $19.2 billion throughout Arizona and by $27.3 billion nationally. The new report also predicts Rosemont would bring local governments $132 million and the state government $224 million in tax revenue over the mine's life.

• Says 90 percent of the mine's short-term construction jobs and long-term operational jobs will be filled by residents of the three counties closest to the mine: Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise.

• Says that while the mine would take thousands of acres of Coronado National Forest land out of recreational use, those tourists would simply hike, mountain-bike, ride ATVs and watch birds somewhere else nearby.

"Recreationalists displaced from the project area would likely visit nearby areas such as Madera Canyon, Mount Wrightson, Las Cienegas National Conservation Area and the remaining roads and trails" in the Santa Ritas, the report said.

On the negative side for the mine proposal, the Forest Service's report:

• Predicts a drop in property values of up to 15 percent for 13 homes lying within two miles of the mine site. It says those predictions are based on studies of the impacts of industrial sites in the Netherlands, animal-feeding operations in Iowa and a landfill in Ohio.

• Foresees a decline - not spelled out in dollars - in quality of life for the communities close to the mine, such as Sonoita, Patagonia and rural areas along Arizona 83, due to increased traffic, noise and a diminishment of scenic views.

• Predicts that the mine's neighbors will be in for a dramatic change in community well-being and sense of place.

"Residents move to the region because of the rural, undeveloped landscape, and a shift from this landscape expectation to a more industrialized landscape would negatively impact local residents who are seeking a rural residential community," the Forest Service wrote.

"Additionally, individuals seeking solitude and a primitive recreation experience would be negatively impacted by the views and noise from mine operation."

WHAT'S NEXT?

After other agencies comment on the Forest Service's draft environmental-impact statement, the agency plans to release a second draft, to the public, in August.

The Forest Service is scheduled to make a decision on the mine by the end of 2011.

Contact reporter Tony Davis at tdavis@azstarnet.com or 806-7746.

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