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For Immediate Release, August 20, 2013

Contact: Randy Serraglio, (520) 784-1504

Lawsuit Filed to Overturn Key Permit for Arizona's Rosemont Mine

TUCSON, Ariz.— The Center for Biological Diversity joined the Save the Scenic Santa Ritas coalition Friday in filing a lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to overturn its approval of an aquifer-protection permit for Rosemont Copper Co.’s proposed open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains near Tucson. The permit, as approved, does little to protect the region’s water, wildlife and people from mining pollution.

“Despite the grave threat the Rosemont mine poses to Tucson’s water supply, the Department of Environmental Quality chose to take the company’s claims at face value and rubber-stamp this permit application without real independent review,” said Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate at the Center. “Our water is precious, and the state needs to do its duty and protect it.”

A coalition of conservation and community groups, businesses and residents appealed to the state Water Quality Appeals Board in 2012 to overturn the permit. In July 2013 the board voted 2-1 to uphold the permit, despite an admission by board members that they hadn’t thoroughly reviewed the appeal or the science and data supporting it.

“It’s stunning that the Water Quality Appeals Board voted to uphold such a complicated and far-reaching permit without so much as a second glance at the facts,” said Serraglio. “This is a classic example of an arbitrary and capricious rubber stamp.”

Among other problems, the aquifer-protection permit:

  • Allows Rosemont to construct the mine and discharge such toxic pollution as mercury, arsenic and lead to the aquifer for at least two years before implementing discharge limits.
  • Fails to consider the mine’s effects on Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek and the plants and animals that rely on it for survival. These precious riparian areas downstream from the proposed mine site contribute up to 20 percent of Tucson’s annual groundwater recharge and provide surface water habitat for several imperiled species, including endangered Chiricahua leopard frogs and Gila chubs. Surface water in these areas is almost entirely dependent on groundwater coming to the surface, which could be contaminated by the mine’s toxic pollution.
  • Is based on an outdated mining plan that has been completely overhauled by Rosemont Copper and its parent company, Augusta Resource Corp. Despite radical changes to the company’s plans, the Department continues to defend an outdated permit that has little to do with reality.

“This permit should be sent back to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality so that it can do what it should have done in the first place — thoroughly analyze the potential harm that the Rosemont copper mine would do to people, plants and wildlife that depend on clean, safe water,” said Serraglio.

The Center is represented by Joy Herr-Cardillo of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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