For Immediate Release, June 2, 2011
Contact: Randy Serraglio, (520) 784-1504
Draft Forest Service Document Highlights Damaging Effects of Rosemont Mine
TUCSON, Ariz.— A preliminary U.S. Forest Service document analyzing the likely effects of the proposed Rosemont open-pit copper mine in southern Arizona highlights a wide range of potential negative impacts, including damage to air and water quality, thousands of acres of wildlife habitat and movement corridors, threatened and endangered species, groundwater, springs and streams, and public health and safety. Yet the Forest Service continues to say that it has little choice but to approve the mine.
“The Forest Service has outlined the destruction that the Rosemont mine would cause, yet seems intent on moving ahead anyway,” said Randy Serraglio, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This mine would be absolutely devastating to the health and welfare of the people, plants and animals in the area. Fortunately, despite what the Forest Service may say, it’s far from being a done deal.”
The document, which is a preliminary draft of an environmental impact statement, is just one step in a long federal process to develop an environmental impact statement for the proposal, a process that is already the subject of a lawsuit brought by citizen groups opposed to the mine.
“Considering that the Forest Service has improperly allowed the copper company to spend the last two years behind closed doors influencing its analysis, it should surprise no one that the agency now says the proposal will likely be approved,” said Serraglio. “This process has been flawed from the start and should be halted immediately until we can be sure that it’s being handled legally and fairly.”
Another suit indirectly relevant to the Rosemont mine challenges the Forest Service’s claim that it cannot refuse to permit such projects under current law.
“The issue is whether the mining company should be allowed to dump billions of tons of toxic wastes and chemicals on thousands of acres of public lands,” said Serraglio. “Not only does the Forest Service have the right to say no — it’s obligated to protect public lands from such wholesale destruction.”
Today’s draft document lists 27 imperiled plants and animals that would be directly harmed by the mine, including the jaguar and Chiricahua leopard frog. It says that the proposed action would directly destroy more than 6,000 acres of wildlife habitat and negatively affect another 90,000 acres. It describes significantly elevated levels of air and water pollutants associated with the mine, including greenhouse gases, and it states that groundwater impacts would dry up 84 springs and diminish or eliminate the flow of important perennial streams in the area.
The next step for the analysis involves feedback from cooperating government agencies that have some jurisdiction over the various issues raised.
“I think we’ll find out from the cooperating agencies that there’s a lot more work to be done,” said Serraglio. “We have a long way to go before we thoroughly understand the full extent of the damage this proposal would do.”