Mine opponents see 3 cautionary tales

2014-03-14T16:49:00Z 2014-03-14T20:22:06Z Mine opponents see 3 cautionary talesBy Tony Davis Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 14, 2014 4:49 pm  • 

Opponents of the Rosemont Mine and a Tucson-area neighborhood group point to three cases, two local and one national, to back up concerns about a corporate takeover of Rosemont Copper’s parent, Augusta Resource Corp.

  • The national environmental group Earthworks pointed to an outcome of Asarco’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in 2005.

A federal judge later ruled that this bankruptcy was triggered by actions from Grupo Mexico — a conglomerate that had bought Asarco in 1999 — transferring a Peruvian mine owned by Asarco to a Grupo subsidiary. That deprived Asarco of the financial assets needed to stay afloat and also prevented the Tucson-based company from settling billions of dollars in environmental and asbestos-related claims filed by government and private parties.

In 2009, after Asarco emerged from bankruptcy, the company signed a settlement with the federal government in which it agreed to pay nearly $1.8 billion in such claims. That compared to estimates at the time of total claims amounting to $7.9 billion to $9 billion, numerous media reported.

  • Utility watchdog
  • Marshall Magruder
  • of Tubac said that it took him three years to get Unisource Energy Co., the parent company of Tucson Electric Power, to carry out a legal commitment by another company that Unisource had bought to provide low-interest college scholarship loans for a small number of high school students.

The case dates to 1999, when Citizens Utilities Co., which delivered electricity to Nogales, signed an agreement with the city of Nogales promising to spend for an indefinite period $3,000 a year on interest-free loans to a Santa Cruz County high school graduate to help defray the cost of college. Once the program got going, the utility would be spending $12,000 a year total on four students.

This agreement was binding on successors, said the document, signed by Citizens’ president and Nogales’ mayor. In 2007, Magruder filed a complaint with the Arizona Corporation Commission that Unisource hadn’t provided any loans since buying the smaller company earlier in the decade.

Unisource, which itself was acquired earlier this year by a larger company, first disagreed with Magruder’s position, saying it didn’t believe that it was bound by Citizens’ past commitment and that it had found deficiencies in the loan-scholarship program, Corporation Commission records show. Unisource had never been ordered by any entity to provide the loans, nor had any students been picked to get them, company spokesman Joe Barrios said.

In 2010, the case was settled when UniSource signed an agreement with Nogales to provide $9,000 in scholarship grants annually from 2011 through 2031.

  • The third case involves the District, a large student housing complex near the University of Arizona that became a hotbed of neighborhood complaints about noise and traffic after opening in summer 2012. At an August 2012 neighborhood meeting, an official with Campus Apartments Inc., the complex’s Philadelphia-based owner, promised to alleviate the problems by building sound walls and traffic mitigation projects such as speed humps.

In October 2012, that company sold the District, at 550 N. Fifth Ave., to a second company, EdR, of Memphis. The West University Neighborhood Association said last week that most of the fixes were never carried out. Susan Jennings, an EdR spokeswoman, said her company was not told of the predecessor company’s reported promises when the ownership changed.

The association criticized Tucson officials for not getting Campus Apartments’ promises in writing. Campus Apartments officials didn’t answer questions from the Star regarding its past commitments.

“They made a bunch of representations about what they would do when they knew they were in escrow flipping the property,” said the area’s city councilman, Steve Kozachik. “We were in middle of conversation when they flipped the property.”

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