Rosemount Mine Would Poison
and Dry Southern Arizona
July 5, 2008
Team Leader, Rosemont Copper Project,
Coronado National Forest
300 W. Congress Street
Tucson, Arizona 85701
Re: Comments for NEPA Scoping regarding the Proposed Rosemont Mine
ATTN: Rosemont Team Leader
Don’t Waste Arizona, Inc. (DWAZ) is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of the environment in Arizona. DWAZ is especially concerned about environmental justice, toxics, and air pollution issues. DWAZ has conducted NEPA litigation successfully, as well as citizen suit enforcement of federal environmental laws, and remains undefeated in the federal courts. DWAZ is headquartered at 6205 South 12th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85042, and may be reached at (602) 268-6110. DWAZ has members in the affected area.
The conduct of the NEPA scoping to date regarding this proposed Rosemont mining operation has not complied with applicable federal statutes, and the Forest Service is aware of that. The letter from Congressional Representatives Giffords and Grijalva regarding the failure by the Forest Service to provide all studies and public records before closing the comment period are on record and DWAZ concurs with their statements. Also, DWAZ is aware of strong arm tactics used to intimidate people, especially the elderly, at public meetings allegedly designed for public comment on the scoping. To call a SWAT team because a man in his 70s has complained about the lack of information and answers at these meetings is clearly a violation of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association.
By filing the following comments regarding the NEPA scoping, DWAZ does not Arizona accept the NEPA scoping process to date as being entirely legal or meeting federal statutory requirements, and reserves the right to litigate these aforementioned issues in the future, including civil rights violations, and a request for a federal grand jury investigation into the matter, including racketeering.
On behalf of DWAZ and its affected members, DWAZ offers the following comments regarding the NEPA scoping regarding the proposed Rosemont mine:
When examining the various issues put forth, the cumulative impacts of all of the issues identified must be considered.
The federal courts have already ruled that it is not the role or job of the Forest Service to help any private industry be profitable, so the Forest Service must be objective in conducting this NEPA process. The Forest Service is already remiss in its duty to provide complete information to the public before commencing the NEPA scoping process, and indeed, should start all over when the complete information is available.
The Forest Service, when examining the potential impacts of the proposed Rosemont mine, must consider and evaluate:
TOXIC HEAVY METALS CONTAMINATION CAUSING WIDESPREAD ADVERSE HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS
The potential for widespread arsenic, lead, copper, zinc, selenium, and other heavy metal contamination in the areas near and adjacent to the proposed Rosemont mine must be fully analyzed, including cumulative effects. For perspective, the mining of copper ore in Arizona, which has left a legacy of contamination and destruction of the environment and public health, must be examined, including but not limited to:
- Lead poisoning and elevated levels of lead in blood and bones, as indicated by high levels of lead in children’s blood in Hayden and Winkelman, Arizona, in levels so high that the state of Arizona’s Department of Health Services had to be notified and had to investigate the causes.
- Arsenic poisoning, as indicated by high levels of arsenic detected in children’s urine in Ajo, Arizona, so much so that the mining operation had to be closed down due to the public health threat is posed.
- An increased lung cancer rate, an increased death rate, and an increased incidence of birth defects caused by heavy metal contamination in affected areas.
- The risk of widespread contamination due to dust containing heavy metals blowing away from the Rosemont mining operation. This includes a year by year assessment of the potential size of the tailing pile(s) and the dispersal of the dust from these tailings piles. The levels of arsenic in the pile of crushed rock and dust in tailings range up to 35 parts per million, according to EPA’s sampling. The following pictures are from the tailings pile adjacent to Hayden, Arizona. The tailings pile grew to the size of a mountain over a period of decades, and only after a civil rights complaint was filed against the ADEQ was the company ever required to suppress the dust, which it was always required to do by federal and state statutes.
A comprehensive study must be included in the EIS that determines how far and in what direction the airborne particulate matter and other airborne materials will travel and what their composition will be, including toxic heavy metals and radionuclides, including uranium and its accompanying emitters. There must also be a comprehensive study of what health effects might be anticipated in the affected area, along with calculations including projected population growth and future settlement. Prevention of airborne release of tailings solids to the environment by provision of dust-suppression measures has not ever worked in Arizona, and with the additionally high temperatures associated with global warming effects in the desert Southwest, it will be even less effective. Will these measures work consistently in regions of high winds such as the Rosemont mining operations?
When Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C. Office chose to do a study on the problem of disturbing radioactive materials, they selected Arizona mines as their study area. There are many metals mixed in the ore with copper, which is only 1% at best in the local sulfide ore. Radionuclides, including uranium and its accompanying emitters, are also present in the area. Uranium was mined at Twin Buttes mine (just north of Sierrita) for approximately 15 years, closed in 1985. See EPA TENORM: Technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material Report, Twin Buttes (page 25) and Sierrita (page 40). www.epa.gov/radiation/docs/tenorm/402-r-99-002.pdf
The cumulative impacts of Rosemont mining operations particulate matter emissions, its implications in causing excessive dust (particulate matter ) in the air in the region near the Rosemont mining operations, and those impacts on other commerce and businesses, including the potential for new requirements for particulate matter emissions caps and particulate matter emissions trading must be examined, as well as the potential for EPA sanctions being imposed on Pima County for non-attainment and exceedances of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards due to particulate matter exceedances. (For example, the Phoenix metropolitan area is in danger of losing billions of dollars in highway funds due to the excessive levels of particulate matter in the ambient air.)
What will be done to protect nearby residents from toxic airborne materials?
The potential for such a tailings pile mountain to form and obstruct scenic views and vistas in the proposed Rosemont mining operation, and that economic impact on property values, tourism, and commerce must also be considered. Tourism brings in a billion dollars/year, much more than the 250-500 jobs the Rosemont mine might create. The drop in property values would exceed that figure substantially.
Seven hundred and fifty million tons—759,300,000 tons—of waste rock will be deposited on 3,155 acres of forest land in 16 years. Mining not only removes mountains, it creates them. There is no way to tuck the waste rock into the landscape where it won’t be noticed.
350 ton trucks will move the ore to the mill, which means 250 truck loads per day grinding from the pits to the mill. There will be just over 26 million tons of tailings dumped annually in impoundments. Over the 16 years, this adds up to a total of 419,000,000 tons of white mineral laden paste.
Both waste rock and tailings gives a grand total of 1,188,211,000 tons to be spread over 3,155 acres of Coronado National Forest land. So there will be over 1 billion tons of waste rock and tailings—almost 376 million tons per acre, a grand total of 173 cubic feet of waste per square foot of land. That means 173 feet high of useless, if not dangerous, waste rock and tailings—if spread on every inch of allotted forest land will be equivalent to a 17-story building. The Rosemont mining operation proposes for the rock to be dispersed, or built up on Forest Service land, in some places 600 ft high, in an oblong circle 3.5 miles long and 1 mile wide. This will cover several springs and streams, causing water diversion right through the ore processing area should there be flooding. Drains will be engineered for this somehow but it is unclear if they were to be concrete lined of just earthen graded paths. The impacts of all of this must be considered, especially for cumulative effects.
The Forest Service needs to evaluate the potential of the Rosemont mine to add to this environmental and health menace the proposed mine poses.
Also, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has a dismal record of enforcing compliance with environmental regulations, and has admitted to the Governor of Arizona in writing that it has no funds for sampling and monitoring, nor the funds for staff to conduct this, nor even the political will to enforce the statutes and protect public health and safety, so the likelihood of extreme environmental noncompliance by the Rosemont mining operation and ADEQ’s failing to respond must be examined for all its implications and cumulative impacts.
The effects of all this heavy metal contamination on the local; desert flora and fauna must be examined, especially in the streams and riparian areas adjacent to this proposed Rosemont mine.
IMPACTS ON NATIVE AMERICANS
The Forest Service should also consider the impacts on Native Americans, and determine whether the approval of the Rosemont mine would be an intentional violation of their civil and legal rights, including their religious rights. There are a number of archaeological sites in the proposed Rosemont mine area that must be evaluated and determinations must be made about whether they are to be preserved intact. There are 130 known archaeological sites in the Rosemont Mine area; these were previously cataloged and managed by the Arizona State Museum. There are several Native American Holy Sites in the area, so the Native American Graves and Protection Act must be considered.
ELECTRICITY NEEDS AND SUPPLY
The Forest Service should also consider how the mine would get sufficient electrical power to it, and the cumulative impacts of 1) projected population and infrastructure growth; 2) power line siting and transmission lines; 3) the inability of Tucson Electric Power to provide the Tucson area with sufficient power for its current and future needs; and 4) additional electrical power generation and the added impacts and effects on air pollution and global warming. (Portions of Pima County have already had particulate matter exceedances above the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, and the addition of emissions from coal, natural gas, or oil-fired electrical generation, mining dust and haul operations will only exacerbate this.) Further, the Arizona Corporation Commission must approve any and all of this, so the likelihood that the Arizona Corporation Commission would approve or disapprove these proposed power line siting and transmission lines, the deal between TEP and Rosemont for power, and the additional power generation and infrastructure needs must be fully examined.
Estimates of peak demand and energy for the project indicate a peak load ranging from 80 megawatts (MW) to 100 MW and approximately 500 GWh to 700 GWh of annual energy requirements. It is currently anticipated that power for the project will be acquired from Tucson Electric Power (TEP), TRICO Electric Cooperative (TRICO), and/or a third party. It is also anticipated that the purchased power will be delivered over the TEP system or the Southwest Transmission Cooperative (SWTC) system to an interconnection point with project-owned transmission facilities.
Electricity is critical for mining operations. Rosemont doesn't appear to have a workable way to obtain the 133 MW of electricity it needs to run its operation. The Tucson Electric Power Company’s (TEP) "preferred" option requires 20 MW of power to be generated in Nogales. Rosemont chose TEP to provide its electricity. Mining and smelting operations adjacent to Green Valley are TEP's largest customer. TEP wants Nogales to pollute its air, use its limited natural gas or backup diesel fuel supplies and its local ground water for cooling its turbines as it makes electricity to support this mine. The impacts on consumer prices for natural gas and/or diesel fuel must also be examined. Also, as many forms of electrical energy production use large amounts of water, the impacts on the water supply of all the additional water used to generate the additional electricity for the mining operation must be examined and quantified.
The mining of metals is one of the most energy intensive industries in the world, consuming up to 10 percent of global energy production annually. In the United States alone, the mining industry uses 2.3 quadrillion (2,300,000,000,000,000) BTUs of energy per year. That is enough energy to supply over 25 million single family households in the United States for an entire year.
The impacts of water use by the mining operation must be fully examined. Sahuarita well owners are facing a draw by the mine of 31,870 gpm. The Rosemont Mine has secured permits for drawing 6000 AF of groundwater per year, but the EIS must examine what the total figure would be, the drawdown on nearby wells (There are about 400 private wells in the immediate area.) as well as the entire aquifer and the entire hydrological effects. The proposed “recycling” of water by Rosemont must be examined and projected along with calculations of the potential for higher temperatures and drought projected by the effects of global warming on the desert Southwest.
There has been information suggesting the Rosemont mine operation would supply its needs with CAP water, ostensibly using water rights belonging to Native American tribes. As Native American tribes are sovereign nations, any water agreements are not enforceable, and the reliability of such as water supply must be examined as well as what contingency plans and alternate water supplies could be available in the event the Native American tribe decided to back out of the agreement. Also, as the CAP water supply is dependent on Colorado River water, which was over allocated to begin with, the effects of prolonged drought and global warming’s expected effects on the Colorado River water supply must be examined for all of its potential ramifications. The loss of water resources from the Colorado River coupled with the Rosemont mine’s water demands could have other cumulative impacts on all of southern Arizona as the lack of available water would have impacts on economic development and population growth and demand. Further, there must be an examination of whether there is any, or enough, water available from the CAP allotment anyway.
Further, the additional of a pipeline or canal for the delivery of this CAP would have impacts in terms of its route, and all of those impacts, individual and cumulative, must be examined.
The current source of Central Arizona Project (CAP) water available for use by the Rosemont Project is approximately 18 miles northwest of the project, near Pima Mine Road and Interstate-19. Cost for transport of CAP water to the Project would be large, requiring approximately 18 miles of pipeline and rights-of-way. In addition, availability of CAP water is subject to interruption from planned maintenance outages and unplanned emergency outages along the CAP aqueduct. The project proponent has contracted to utilize CAP water as an indirect source of water. By contracting for and purchasing CAP water in an amount equivalent to that used at the mine, the project proponent plans to recharge CAP water to the regional aquifer at other locations in the upper Santa Cruz basin. Recharge of CAP water at an established groundwater recharge facility in the upper Santa Cruz basin will offset the potential impact of groundwater withdrawal on a regional scale. Originally, recharge was to be 10 miles away at Pima Mine Road; however, the site has been changed to Marana, some 30 miles away.
The official name is “Groundwater Replenishment District.” It was meant to allow building in certain cases when water was deficient, but has been expanded and used in a myriad of approaches that was not the original intent. The crux of the matter is that Assured Safe Yield by 2025 for an Active Management Area (AMA) is the overall average for region—so one area can be up and another can be down—it’s the overall water balance.
Even though the Tucson area is known for subsidence and earth fissures (south of Tucson), this practice is continued. The potential of water depletion resulting in subsidence and earth fissures caused by methods of obtaining water for the Rosemont mining project must be fully examined, as well as the areas likely to be affected, and the potential for property devaluation and property damage to existing structures.
Historically, water levels have declined considerably in this general area due to mining. Documents publicly available show lowering of groundwater in the area of mining, both at Twin Buttes and Sierrita. The data is dated because this type of work was only done in the early 1980s after F.I.C.O. sued the mines because of their heavy use of water and contamination causing high salt/hardness content. The report is “Ground-water Monitoring in the Tucson Copper Mining District,” prepared by Pima Association of Governments and Upper Santa Cruz Basin Mines Task Force (created only for this study). The report is available from Pima Association of Governments (792-1093). www.g-a-l.info/DepletionMaps.htm
In Green Valley, there is an annual drawdown of 2 to 3 feet per year. Water rights for mining for the local mining company were obtained by buying up agricultural land. The result is that the community is sustaining a 31,000 acre feet annual deficit, and signs of subsidence are beginning to appear: cracking in walls of homes, sidewalks and roads. Map of the projected water levels in 2025 in Pima County, are at. www.g-a-l.info/Green Valley 2025.htm
As it is a local water company that would have to make the deal with the Rosemont mining operation, the Arizona Corporation Commission would also have a role in approving or disapproving such an arrangement, as well as approving or disapproving any rates charged by the water company. Again, the Arizona Corporation Commission must approve any and all of this, so the likelihood that the Arizona Corporation Commission would approve or disapprove these proposed arrangements and the infrastructure needs must be fully examined.
The proposed Rosemont Mine in the northeastern Santa Rita Mountains may have substantial harmful effects on the streams that drain the mountains, as well as on the region’s most important sources of fresh, potable water — the groundwater aquifers of the Santa Cruz River Valley and the Cienega Basin. Augusta wants to fill in Barrel, Wasp, McCleary, and Scholefield Canyons, yet claims no impact to the Cienega Creek watershed.
The northeastern Santa Rita Mountains receive approximately 18 to 22 inches of rainfall each year, almost twice that received by the adjacent valleys. This rain, fresh and uncontaminated, flows from the mine area via two streams northeastward into Davidson Canyon and then into Cienega Creek and, finally, Pantano Wash, which drains westward toward Tucson. The streams serve the following purposes:
- They create riparian zones that support healthy vegetation necessary for a diverse ecology and for control of erosion of stream banks.
- They supply a number of springs and tinajas that are the source of water for countless birds and other animals, large and small, that inhabit the area.
- They recharge small groundwater basins along their courses — the sources of water for a number of domestic wells.
- They are a significant source of fresh, uncontaminated water for the Tucson groundwater basin, the source of most of Tucson’s potable water.
- They serve as treasured recreation sites for residents and visitors alike.
The Rosemont Mine Plan of Operations shows that the mine, during its 20-year life, will create approximately 4 square miles of mine and mill waste dumps at the headwaters of these mountain streams.
As rain falls throughout the year onto the surfaces of these dumps, it will infiltrate the uncovered surfaces, then percolate downward, slowly becoming acidic as it does so and probably dissolving one or more different types of possibly toxic metals and other substances. Because the bases of the dumps will not be lined with impervious materials (as the leach pads at the mine and municipal solid waste landfills are required to be), this now-contaminated water will find its way into the bedrock and bedrock fractures underlying the dumps and ultimately emerge in the springs and stream beds below the mine.
The nature and amount of this contamination cannot be predicted precisely, but its effect will be to degrade, possibly very seriously, the ecology and water quality of the streams. In addition, major storm events could rupture surface-containment berms and other protective structures, possibly allowing large amounts of very fine-grained mill waste from the leach pads or the waste dumps to enter the streams’ drainage systems, thus causing additional contamination. The readings in the mill area of Sierrita mine show other heavy metals that are toxic, including cadmium, selenium and arsenic. All the public wells in Green Valley are in the process of installing arsenic treatment because of naturally occurring arsenic in the Santa Cruz aquifer. These heavy metals are more or less inert and harmless in conglomerates buried under the ground. However, in the same way as uranium, when the metals are ground to face powder consistency and added into water with other chemicals, they become liable to enter the environment through the soil, air or water. How will these impacts be mitigated, and what are the cumulative effects of this?
The Plan of Operations describes how the mine will need 6,000 to 8,000 acre-feet of fresh water per year (enough to supply as many as 32,000 people per year), primarily for the operation of the mill and concentrator. Rosemont Copper plans to import this water via a pipeline from a well field located 15 miles away from the mine near the Town of Sahuarita. The company has drilled and tested two wells at this well field.
There are indications from these tests that they may not be able to pump the amount of water they need without seriously affecting many nearby domestic and agricultural wells because of the drawdown, or lowering, of the water table. The nearby wells could be left without enough water to supply the owners’ needs and may have to be deepened. Rosemont Copper has not performed a hydrogeological analysis of the groundwater system at the well field and vicinity.
The Santa Cruz River basin provides water for many users — two existing mines, six domestic water companies, large pecan groves, and eight golf courses. To serve these users in 2006, approximately 76,500 acre-feet of water were pumped out of the basin. Of this, about 40,000 acre-feet were not replaced by natural or artificial recharge. The result of this continuing overdraught is that the basin’s water table is declining at the rate of about four feet per year, a rate that will accelerate if additional large users, such as the Rosemont Mine, are added.
If the decline does continue or accelerate, it could result in the curtailment of new housing and other economic development in the area, or water shortages and increased potable water costs. If it becomes extreme, it may cause significant sinking of the land surface along the Santa Cruz River, a phenomenon already detected by the Arizona Department of Water Resources.
The Rosemont Mine could be an even larger contributor to the groundwater deficit in the Santa Cruz River basin if one crucial part of its plan does not work, as follows:
To minimize the amount of water the mine needs, the Plan of Operations calls for the concentrator to be equipped with a “state-of-the-art” waste filtering and water recovery system, called “dry stacking.” Presumably, this will enable the mine to recover 89 percent of the water it uses.
But dry stacking is so new that it has never been tested in the U.S. at mines of this nature and size or in the variable climatic conditions existing in the Santa Rita Mountains. And Augusta, the operator of the proposed Rosemont mining operation, has never actually conducted any mining operations and has no experience. The potential effect of the inexperience of Augusta, and the additional probability of error and/or noncompliance caused by or aggravated by inexperience, must be analyzed and mitigation must be proposed for all potential and cumulative impacts.
Some engineers doubt that it will work to the degree hoped for by Rosemont. If it does not work, the mine may require considerably more water from its well field at Sahuarita. The Mission and Sierrita mines, for example, together use approximately 34,500 acre-feet annually. This seems like an intolerable amount to impose on the well owners of Sahuarita and the already stressed groundwater system of the Santa Cruz River Valley. Furthermore, drinking water is becoming too precious a commodity in Arizona to allow its use for additional and unnecessary mining purposes.
How will surface water quantity and water quality in Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek be protected?
What will be the impact on ground and surface water from the heap leach method?
How will Rosemont Copper prevent wells in nearby residential and agricultural areas from being depleted, and how will they compensate the landowners?
All liners eventually leak, so the pollution of the groundwater is inevitable. What is the flow of groundwater in the area, and how long before the seepage/leakage ruins the adjacent water wells?
What sensitive, threatened, and endangered species might be affected by the mining proposal, and how will impacts on these species be mitigated?
How will natural habitat and wildlife corridors be affected by the mining proposal and a proposed pipeline, and how will these impacts be mitigated?
How does Rosemont Copper propose to prevent toxics from leaching out of the waste dumps and into the groundwater?
Toxic chemicals are used in the Flotation Process to separate the copper and out of the milled powder. Link to a complete explanation of processing copper: http://electrochem.cwru.edu/encycl/art-m02-metals.htm
This Flotation Process is the major extraction method where there is poor quality of the ore. Xanthate chemicals produce bubbles that the copper adheres to and the "bad stuff" falls to the bottom. These chemicals used for flotation are hydrocarbons with complex configurations, but some are as simple as kerosene. It is claimed that the volatile organics used in the Flotation Process do not go into the slurry that goes into the tailings impoundment because they are filtered out before the slurry goes to the impoundment. This is not a sound analysis.
- Filtration is not a treatment technology for volatile organics. Treatment is pushing air through the solution, which releases the volatile chemicals into the air, the equivalent of landfilling the waste chemicals in the air.
- Some are amine compounds that break down into nitrates, so the presence of nitrates in the groundwater is an indicator of travel of these compounds, which can be very mobile in an oxygen solution (H2O).
Some of the Chemicals Used in Flotation Process and in the Thickening Process that takes the water out of the used slurry:
Alky Aryl Oxime
Alkyl Xanthate salt
Nalco 7873—no chemical formula given
Pits become toxic lakes that are harmful to wild life and not consistent with a recreational area: The operation plans to remediate the tailings and waste rock as it goes along, which means there will be no back-filling of the pit because there will be nothing to fill it with. When the operations cease, the pit will no longer be dewatered. Therefore, the pit will fill with water from the ground and storms. A natural lake has mud and clay lining, whereas the pit will be exposed minerals which will create a significant potential for acid water in the pits once mining has stopped. What will be the long-term and cumulative impacts? How will this be prevented and mitigated?
The Forest Service has written a report on the flooding by groundwater of open-pit mines in several abandoned mines in Region 6 pit lake. Water quality in these pit lakes varies from highly acidic to alkaline. www.fws.gov/pacific/ecoservices/envicon/pim/reports/Reno/PitMines.htm
The Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana is a 1.5 square mile open pit approximately 1,700 feet in depth. Ground water has infiltrated the open pit and created a pit lake about 710 feet in depth containing 30 billion gallons of water with a pH of 2.5. Birds landing in these acidic pit lakes can ingest this water which causes severe trauma to their gastrointestinal tracts and eventual death. The acidic water also removes natural oils from the birds’ feathers causing them to die by drowning or hypothermia. In 1995, the Berkeley Pit proved lethal to over 300 snow geese which used the pit lake as a migratory stopping place.
Abandoned open pit uranium mines in Wyoming also have formed pit lakes. This is relevant, uranium has been mined in Pima County at the Twin Buttes mine; therefore; uranium could be present in the waste rock in Rosemont area. Uranium-bearing formations are usually associated with strata containing high concentrations of selenium. Pit lakes formed in open pit uranium mines can contain very high levels of selenium in the water. One pit lake in Wyoming contains over 100 parts per million (microgram per Liter [µg/L]) of selenium. Waterborne selenium concentrations greater than 2µg/L are known to impair the reproduction and survival of aquatic birds due to the high potential for dietary toxicity through food chain bioaccumulation.
The heavy metals native to this area include Copper, Manganese, Zinc, Cadmium, Selenium, Uranium and other alpha emitters. Data from the area underneath the milling area at Sierrita is sparse since that area is not included in the Aquifer Protection Permit.
Sulfuric Acid Leaching Processing:
The Rosemont Plan, page v, states that they will also be using acid leaching. This processing method has the advantage that it does not require tailings impoundments. However, it does use large amounts of sulfuric acid. After the sulfuric acid is used and processed it is returned to large ponds from which it is recycled. Although lined, these ponds are open and very toxic.
Sulfuric acid is brought in on railroad tankers at Sierrita, and ore and cooper are moved out on railroad cars. Railroads are essential to copper mining. Actually, we have copper mining to thank for our railroad system in Arizona. How will the sulfuric acid, ore for smelting, and copper from electro-winning be transported out of this area? How many trucks will it take to haul the stuff back and forth? What are the cumulative impacts and risks?
According to the experts: Leach pad sites are generally selected for their combination of geotechnical and economic considerations. Sites with large settlement potential or slope stability problems are usually avoided. However, copper leach pads can be enormous, reaching areas in excess of 5 million square meters. This often precludes selection of the optimum site from a geotechnical standpoint. It also can require a liner system to span a wide range of geologic profiles.
“Differential settlement typically results from one of three causes: the liner spans soils of differing compressibility, the slope and height of the heap are extreme, or local settlement results from leaks in the liner. The latter cause can be significant where the soils contain high concentrations of acid soluble salts such as in northern Chile.”
When a mine is permitted, it is required to have a plan for reclamation. To be certain that the reclamation will occur even if the company fails, state agencies, including New Mexico, require the mining company to post a bond to assure that the reclamation will happen—but not in Arizona. The bond amount is supposed to equal the amount that would be required for the government to reclaim.
Corporate guarantees are a promise by the mining company to reclaim the site. If they meet certain requirements, the State of Arizona will allow the company to sign and basically promise that they will not go bankrupt. Unfortunately, mines do go bankrupt.
Often, the land is so scarred that nothing can be grown or reclaimed for years. The ancient Romans had metallic sulfide mines that still leach sulfuric acid into the areas. I say show me one of these large pit mines that has been returned to any level of its previous condition.
Reclamation of Sierrita Mine, Green Valley, Arizona. The mining officials claim they will return this site to a recreation area. That stretches credulity.
TRAFFIC AND TRANSPORTATION
What are the cumulative impacts of the Rosemont traffic when expected population growth is factored in? All supplies, including sulfuric acid and toxic volatile organic chemicals, will be trucked in daily. Further, to calculate the daily loads of copper taken out on the road in 10 ton trucks. Sulfide Ore at .6 % of 27,000,000 tons = 162,000 tons of copper per year = 450 tons per day, that is, forty-five 10-ton truck loads. However, the concentrate is at best 50% copper—so twice that amount is ninety 10-ton truck loads per day. In addition, there is 10,000,000 tons of oxide ore per year. The percentage of copper expected to be in this oxide ore is not available at this time to calculate the number of additional truck loads to carry out the copper wafers.
How will Rosemont Copper compensate Pima County for the damage their large, heavy vehicles will do to Highway 83? This is a two-lane road not designed for this type of prolonged heavy truck traffic.
How will Rosemont Copper guarantee the safety of school buses, tourist, and commuter traffic on Highway 83 given that, every 10 to 15 minutes, there will be large, heavy vehicles carrying dangerous chemicals and materials?
There is no hazmat response capability outside of Tucson in rural Pima County, so the potential impacts of a hazardous materials spill or release from a Rosemont mining vehicle or tanker must be fully examined in terms of response, recovery, and potential environmental and economic impacts. Simply calculating the likelihood of such an event is not sufficient as emergency planning and response is designed to determine how and what the response would consist of, with requisite personnel, training and equipment, and the associated economic impacts.
The railroads have asserted that the rail traffic in the area has already reached carrying capacity, which does not include any rail traffic caused by shipments of ore from the Rosemont mining operation. The cumulative impacts of the additional, potential rail traffic from Rosemont mining operations must be analyzed, coupled with the other economic growth and associated increases in rail traffic expected throughout the life of the proposed mining operation, including the potential impacts of more rail lines and track needing to be developed along the various potential routes.
BLASTING AND EXPLOSIONS
What are the amounts of ammonium nitrate that will be stored on-site at the Rosemont mining operation, and the hazards associated with this on-site storage of ammonium nitrate, as well as the potential cumulative hazards and impacts of the transportation of these explosives to the site? What are the security measures planned for transport and on-site storage, and the potential risk of accident, or criminal or terrorist activity? What will be done to prevent static discharge or lightning strikes from causing an unplanned explosion? What consideration for shock effects or damage to cities, power-lines, wells, pipes, or the underground aquifer from such a large amount of explosive discharging accidentally will be provided as protection for the community and the environment? What planning has been done and will be done for this contingency?
What will be done to protect nearby residents, wildlife, and recreational users in the Coronado National Forest from the deleterious impacts of daily blasting? What will be the cumulative environmental, economic, and cultural impacts of this blasting on nearby residents, wildlife, and recreational users in the Coronado National Forest?
There is a risk to the environment due to the amount of explosives planned to be used on-site, a building which does not meet federal standards as a bunker (i.e. a comparable storage facility on a federal base or contract facility), and there is an absence of plans, specifications, manuals, and safety/health precautions cited in the plan.
Daily blasting is required to remove rock (or overburden) covering the ore body. The impact to nearby residences, wildlife and recreational users in the National Forest will be equivalent to daily sonic booms, and the cumulative effects must be examined. There will also be an impact on human health, and these impacts need to be examined and evaluated.
Also, what will be the effects of noise pollution from trains?
Given that the mine expects to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, what is the overall impact on light pollution? A national observatory in the Santa Ritas may be compromised by lights from the mines, so what impacts will the Rosemont mining activities have on that?
There are strict regulations for lighting at night. Rosemont, as is the practice in all mining operations, plans to operate 24 hours/day. Good lighting is essential for mining operations and required by the Labor Board.
In January of 1995, a fatality occurred at a waste rock dump area at the Sierrita mine site in nearby Green Valley, then owned by Cyprus Corporation. A Caterpillar dump truck backed over a berm, and turned over, fatally injuring the driver. There was no illumination provided at the dump area. The truck was equipped with two back-up lights that were quite dirty. The Labor Board investigated and required that portable lighting plants be installed at all dumping areas to provide sufficient illumination for safe dumping operations.
WILDLIFE AND WILDLIFE HABITAT
Intensive development of the site as an open pit mine will result in loss of a significant portion of the wildlife habitat and movement corridor on the eastern side of the Santa Ritas, potentially impacting endangered, threatened, and candidate species, in addition to priority vulnerable species or species of special concern. The Santa Ritas are recognized for the biological values and are an Important Birding Area (IBA). In addition, the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan lists part of the area around Rosemont as part of the Biological Core.
There are several priority vulnerable species that are known to occur at Rosemont Ranch including two Endangered Species: the Lesser Long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae yerbabuenae) and Pima Pineapple Cactus (Coryphantha scheeri robustispina). In addition, other special status species are known to occur there: Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Rana chiricahuensis), listed as threatened, and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus), a candidate for listing.
There are six other priority vulnerable species or Wildlife of Special Concern known to occur in the Rosemont Ranch area, according to the AZ Game and Fish Department: Mexican Long-tongued Bat (Choeronycteris mexicana), Western Red Bat (Lasiurus blossevillii), Lowland Leopard Frog (Rana yavapaiensis), Giant Spotted Whiptail Lizard (Cnemidophorus burti stictogrammus), Rufous-winged Sparrow (Aimophila carpalis), and Bell's Vireo (Vireo bellii). The Mexican Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis lucida) may also occur there, based on its habitat requirements.
What will be the full and cumulative impacts of the Rosemont mining project on these endangered, candidate species, other priority vulnerable species or Wildlife of Special Concern, and other wildlife, flora and fauna?
The foot-print of the Rosemont Mine is stated to come within four miles of Madera Canyon; a world known birding area that harbors several rare species of birds, some endangered. The wetlands within Madera canyon are spring fed possibly sharing the same source as the springs within the proposed Rosemont Mine area.
Since these spring fed wetlands share the same water source will Madera canyon's wetlands suffer from the Rosemont mine; and, what will be the effect of the Rosemont mining project on endangered wildlife and these birds?
Has Rosemont contracted biological population studies on all species of endangered wildlife; and, can they say with certitude that their mine will not endanger the wildlife and International tourism to the Santa Cruz valley?
SEISMIC EVENTS ISSUES
The subject area is in a seismic zone with mild to moderate risk of earthquake activity. During the Sonoran earthquake in the 1800s, the area had a level 8 earthquake with about 60 deaths occurring. The 1877 earthquake changed the landscape from the Santa Cruz River to the Chiricahua Mountains. This subject area is a mountainous region where there is a potential for earthquakes, and tailings dams must be engineered to hold back their sludge forever. What additional risks to the environment from the cumulative effects of the Rosemont mining operation exist from the risk from earthquake impacts?
PUBLIC POLICY LEGAL ISSUES
In a law suit in 2003, Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, ruled that the Bureau of Land Management has the authority to and must prevent substantial damage to public lands under the undue or unnecessary degradation (UUD) standard of the Federal Lands Management and Policy Act (FLPMA).
“The court finds that the Solicitor [of the Interior Department] misconstrued the clear mandate of FLPMA. FLPMA, by its plain terms, vests the Secretary of the Interior with the authority–and indeed the obligation–to disapprove of an otherwise permissible mining operation because the operation, though necessary for mining, would unduly harm or degrade the public land.” [Page 20 of court opinion]
This degrading of public lands in a way that is non-recoverable is certainly a relevant issue.
How is the Forest Service handling these related issues?
DWAZ expects all of its scoping comments to be addressed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and looks forward to a close review of that document. Failure to address all of the scoping comments is a violation of NEPA.
Stephen M. Brittle, President
Don't Waste Arizona, Inc.
6205 South 12th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85042-4327
Via Email to: email@example.com