I would like to offer what I feel is a more accurate, fact-based picture of the Rosemont Mine’s approval process than the one written by Gayle Hartmann, president of the Save the Scenic Santa Ritas Association, in the Star guest opinion, “Just the facts: Rosemont still a long way from final OK” (Dec. 28).

A little more than four years ago on “Arizona Illustrated,” Hartmann was asked this question: “What are the chances the Rosemont mine will be built?” Her answer was “less than 1 percent.” Today that ratio is now exactly reversed, to less than 1 percent that it won’t be built.

After tens of millions of dollars spent in design, engineering, factual data collecting and analysis, reclamation and a handful of years, the mine project is on the verge of construction.

In her Star piece, Hartmann claimed the mine is still a long way from reality, when in fact permitting under the new Forest Service regulations will bring the final decision in a few weeks. Maximum delay for a decision is 120 days from Jan. 1, a relatively short time considering the years already dedicated to the project.

She wrote that government agencies are far apart on approving the final steps. But according to Jim Upchurch, Coronado National Forest supervisor, all groups with a stake in the mine are working together to resolve the remaining issues before the deadline. If engineering solutions can resolve these issues, then in my professional opinion all groups will come to an agreement and the mine project can move forward.

Here are my responses to some of her other points:

  • As for the Native American and local community’s objections, the only tribe that has been open with its concerns using the local media during this long approval process is the Tohono O’odham Nation. Other tribes have appeared to me to be either neutral or have not publicly opposed the mine development. Communities around the region were at one time unanimous in their opposition to the mine, but that is no longer the case. The tide has turned in favor of the mine with several communities.
  • Covering thousands of acres of public land with mining deposition will alter the present topographic configuration at the mine site, not permanently destroy the land. Although it is the nature of the business to move earth, new technology and methods being employed make this mine unlike the more familiar operations south of Tucson.

There are many examples of reclaimed mining sites around the country, and preplanning with engineered deposition of 3:1 slopes for Rosemont will enable the quick enhancement of the site as operations continue. The revegetation test plots on site have already proved reclamation feasibility and the probable return of wildlife, both floral and fauna.

  • As for jobs and the huge economic benefits, up to 450 Rosemont employees will be located at the mine and they’ll be highly paid, resulting in discretionary spending income. Many others will be working at the mine as contractors. Hundreds of additional indirect employees will be hired to support the mine, and tens of thousands of people will be receiving part of their income due to discretionary spending from Rosemont activity.

What waitress wouldn’t want a $20 tip from a Rosemont employee taking his/her family out to dinner? And will that waitress spend her $20 tip? Absolutely, and someone else gets a piece of the action. And how many local government employees will receive income from the $19 million a year received as tax revenue?

In short, many thousands of residents will be supported in full, or in part, by this mining project. It’s preposterous to think only 450 people will benefit from a working mine the size of Rosemont, and the presumption is totally false.

  • Finally, moves by mine opponents to engage the federal courts for favored resolution isn’t going to work either. Compliance with regulations makes it hard for courts to reject, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has been approving mine projects, including one not long ago in scenic Montana.

Dave Efnor, a Tucson mining engineer, has worked at domestic and overseas operations, both surface and underground. He currently does contract mine-safety training for Rosemont and other companies.