Company unveils plan for proposed copper mine - Tucson News Now

Company unveils plan for proposed copper mine

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

While a final decision is still pending for Rosemont Copper, the company that wants to open a mine in the Santa Rita Mountains, unveiled their plan to conserve land and water in the area.

Company officials say they are committed to making sure there is minimal impact to the environment, as they drill for copper in the scenic mountains.

During a press conference held at the Tucson Chamber of Commerce on Thursday morning, Rosemont officials announced that they will permanently conserve 4,500 acres of open space and allocate more than 550 Million gallons per year of private surface water rights to the public.

To help put that in perspective, that is equivalent to more than 4,000 football fields, and the same amount of waste water treated by a city the size of Los Angeles, per day.

"We want to be able to look back and say look at what we've done, we're proud of it," said Jamie Sturgess, Sr. V.P.  of Corporate Development and Community Affairs.

Here is a list of areas Rosemont Copper has selected for preservation and Conservation:

The Pantano Dam and Cienega Creek, which includes 1,122 acre feet of water rights and 2 acres of land.  Officials say protecting and creating this priority water right, both upstream and downstream, would create a habitat for endangered species.

Davidson Canyon parcels, which include 574 acres of land.  Cultural homesteads, archaeological sites, public views and a spring make this land valuable.  Rosement officials say these lands will be kept open, maintaining public views and protecting the reach of the seasonal Davidson Canyon wash.

The Sonoita Creek Ranch which is 1,200 acres of land and 588 acre feet of water rights.  This plays an essential role in the recharging of the Town of Patagonia's aquifer.  The property, poised for residential development will be preserved in its entirety.

The Helvetia Ranch which includes 940 acres of land, and connects the Santa Rita experimental range to the Coronado National Forest.  The area is considered a wildlife corridor.  Conserving this area would provide a habitat for the endangered Pima Pineapple Cactus, Mexican Long-Tongued Bat, and the Lesser Long-Nosed Bat.

Finally, the Fullerton Ranch which includes 1,780 acres of land.  The property is valuable to the Desert Box Tortoise and other species.

Rosemont officials had this message for critics and opponents who challenge their environmental commitment.

"Watch us.  We're going to walk the talk," said Sturgess.

Pima County's District 1 Supervisor, Ally Miller said she was not so sure about a mine in the scenic Santa Rita's when she first heard about the project a few years ago.

"I'm a hiker a biker, I've always been conscientious about the environment. Initially I was very skeptical, after the second trip down there I said okay, we need copper."

And there's a lot of it in those mountains.  Rosemont officials say drilling tests have shown the copper in the Santa Rita's is world class.  It has the potential to be 10% of the nation's annual production of copper, and that will be recycled for generations to come.

"It's not just jobs, now it's copper for a country for decades or centuries," said Sturgess.

Officials said the mine would create 1,200 construction jobs and about 450 full time jobs with benefits.  They estimate the economic impact to be $19 Million for Pima County.

Gayle Hartmann, President of the group Save the Scenic Santa Ritas said they're not convinced after hearing about Rosemont's plans to mitigate the environment impact in the area.  The group released this statement today.

"Regardless of its PR spin, it is indisputable that the proposed Rosemont Mine will permanently alter two watersheds that provide drinking water to Tucson.  Rosemont is proposing to pump potentially unlimited amounts of groundwater, our best quality drinking water, from the Santa Cruz River watershed near Sahuarita and Green Valley.  Rosemont will also pile toxic mine waste 600 to 800 ft. high in the Davidson Canyon/Cienega Creek watershed that provides 20% of the groundwater recharge to the Tucson basin.  Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) called some of the mitigation elements that Rosemont proposed today "scientifically flawed".

More recently in comments to the Forest Service, the EPA pointed out that the basic analysis of Rosemont's impacts on water was so woefully lacking that it is hard to determine what is sufficient mitigation, while strongly criticizing as unacceptable several of the measures that Rosemont apparently put forward today.

Southern Arizonans take our water very seriously and Rosemont's latest offering must be carefully and thoroughly analyzed by the respective agencies. But the most effective way to protect our water is to not allow this mine to be built in this unique and special place."

Rosemont officials said they are still waiting for a few more reports, approvals, and the final economic impact statement to be released.  If all goes well, they hope to start construction in January, 2014.

Copyright 2013 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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