The U.S. Forest Service didn’t meet its own legal deadline last week for responding to objections to its plans to approve the Rosemont Mine, saying it needs more time.
The service is working to respond to 600 comments from 101 individuals, groups, agencies and Indian tribes criticizing the draft Rosemont decision and final environmental impact statement.
Here are highlights of the public objections filed with the U.S. Forest Service over its final environmental impact statement and draft decision in favor of the Rosemont Mine:
- Many objectors say there won’t be enough Central Arizona Project water to replenish the aquifer to compensate for Rosemont Copper’s pumping, due to the ongoing drought. They say the final Rosemont environmental impact statement inadequately analyzed that issue.
- Many objectors say the Forest Service should have analyzed impacts on individual wells that could be impacted by Rosemont’s pumping. The Forest Service says it couldn’t do specific well analyses. Pima County disagrees.
- A coalition of opponents note that the environmental report says a pit lake that will form after the mine closes could exceed standards for heavy metals cadmium, mercury, copper and selenium. Objectors are concerned that no mitigation is planned, although the metals are toxic to wildlife.
- Dozens of objectors say the final environmental report contains numerous factual changes and new information that wasn’t in the draft report. They say the Forest Service must do a supplemental report to allow for public review.
- The Arizona Game and Fish Department says the service didn’t consider a consultant’s finding that the majority of liquids seeping through mine tailings will reach Barrel and Davidson canyons instead of being captured by the open pit. Game and Fish says the Forest Service should analyze what’s in the tailings seepage, determine potential impacts on water and wildlife and consider mitigation measures.
- Game and Fish also says the Forest Service makes inconsistent statements about the mine’s potential to degrade Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek’s water. The environmental report says “no”; a 2013 consultant’s report says “maybe.”
- A coalition of opponents say the Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s conclusion that the mine won’t illegally damage jaguar critical habitat ignores cumulative effects such as noise, lighting and land by potential future mining operations, particularly near Patagonia.
- Farmers Investment Co. executives Richard and Nan Walden say that because the Forest Service isn’t requiring groundwater recharge to compensate for Rosemont’s pumping, Rosemont Copper’s promise to replenish the aquifer with Central Arizona Project water is “meaningless.”
- The Mountain Empire Action Alliance, a Sonoita-based group, says the Forest Service refused to provide key details of economic analyses used in the final environmental report and that it didn’t allow peer or citizen review of the analysis.
- Many objectors say the Forest Service’s analysis of the mine’s impacts on property values was inadequate, and object that the service didn’t give people the chance to comment on it.
- Pima County, environmental groups and other objectors are concerned that bonding and financial assurances to be paid by Rosemont Copper weren’t disclosed, giving the public no opportunity to comment.