A group representing about 350 commercial builders statewide announced Thursday it has endorsed the proposed Rosemont Mine.
The Arizona Builders Alliance's board of directors decided unanimously to support the mine last month after taking a mine tour led by Rosemont Copper, said its Southern Arizona director, David Pittman.
It wasn't an easy decision because some members had negative feelings about the mine, he said, but the tour resolved the concerns.
"We went out and took the tour. Everyone came away really flabbergasted with what you would call their embracing of new technologies and sustainable mining practices," Pittman said Thursday. "I think if it's approved and allowed it will be the most environmentally sensitive mine in Arizona."
The mine would take 220 million pounds of copper yearly from the Santa Rita Mountains about 30 miles southeast of Tucson. It would employ hundreds, but has drawn opposition in part because it would also require use of more than 3,000 acres of Forest Service land for disposal of waste rock and mine tailings.
The mine has been endorsed by nine other business groups, including Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce, Tucson Utility Contractors Association and Alliance of Construction Trades.
Opponents include numerous local governments and state legislators as well as many environmentalists and a number of tourist-oriented businesses.
Mine opponents said they were disappointed that the Arizona Builders Alliance made its decision without speaking to opposition groups, said Morris Farr, Save the Scenic Santa Ritas' vice president.
Pittman said members felt they got a really good presentation about the mine from the copper company. In fact, "I think it's been a lot easier to get the message from the opponents than from the company" when it comes to the media's reporting, he said.
"Arizona clearly needs the 2,100 jobs the mine would bring … and the more than $700 million per year in economic stimulus that would flow into Pima, Cochise and Santa Cruz counties during the 20-year life of the mine," Pittman said. "The Rosemont operation would result in the building of more than $900 million in roads and facilities, which would provide needed stimulus to the Southern Arizona commercial construction industry."
The ABA is a nonprofit trade group whose Southern Arizona members include about 150 general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and professional service groups.
Alliance officials said they were particularly impressed with Rosemont's plans for reclaiming the mine site and for recharging Central Arizona Project water to compensate for groundwater pumped for the mine.
Rosemont Copper President and CEO Rod Pace said he was very pleased to have the alliance's support. "We are committed to setting a new standard in mining, using local companies and providing approximately 500 direct and 1,600 indirect, long-term jobs to Southern Arizona," Pace said. The company has also promised thousands of construction jobs during the two years the mine is under construction.
But Farr said, "Obviously, Rosemont does a good job of pushing the positive aspects of their program. I'm willing to bet they don't include negative aspects like the loss of jobs and declining property values" in tourist areas and other, residential areas near the mine site.
Contact reporter Tony Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 806-7746.