Here are some statements from opponents of the Rosemont Mine, a Rosemont Copper vice president and a state agency spokesman on a new lawsuit. It was filed last week by mine opponents in an effort to overturn a state aquifer protection permit for the mine.
We cover the suit in today's print edition of the Star, and a news article on it should also be on our website.
The permit was issued last year by the State Department of Environmental Quality. It was upheld this year in separate rulings from a state administrative law judge and the State Water Quality Appeals Board. Now, 14 individuals and groups who oppose the mine are challenging the appeals board's final signoff in Superior Court in Maricopa County.
First, from Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate for mine opponents the Center for Biological Diversity:
“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,” Serraglio said. “Our water is precious, and the state needs to do its duty and protect it.”
Among other things, the center and other plaintiffs in the case allege that the state has failed 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 the Chiricahua leopard frog and Gila chub, the center said. 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, the center said.
Here's a rebuttal from Kathy Arnold, Rosemont Copper's vice president for environmental and regulatory affairs:
"This is the same issue by the same group that appealed to the Arizona Water Quality Appeals Board last year. This and all previous appeals have been rejected. Our Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) is valid and we are confident it will remain so.
"In the previous appeal, the Administrative Law Judge ruled on over 500 findings of fact with 33 conclusions of law in support of work conducted by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and the APP permit they issued. The Appeals Board subsequently upheld our permit on the basis of those findings.
"This lawsuit will not result in a different decision, especially since the court will not hear any new evidence, but will only review the record. These last minute actions have been anticipated as it is a common opposition tactic. They seek delays. . .This will not result in any delay in permitting or project timelines."
Now, from Mark Shaffer, an ADEQ spokesman:
"ADEQ issued the Aquifer Protection Permit to Rosemont Copper Company after independent and rigorous analysis of the plan for the mine. It also was issued following a public hearing and consideration of nearly 250 comments from the public.
"During the appeal of ADEQ’s decision and following nine days of testimony before the Office of Administrative Hearings, ADEQ’s decision to issue the permit was unconditionally upheld and the appeals were dismissed. This finding was also independently and unconditionally upheld by the Water Quality Appeals Board.
"We are confident the permit, as issued, will be protective of the state’s water quality," Shaffer said.
Finally, here's Gayle Hartmann, president of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, another plaintiff:
"Southern Arizonans take threats to their water very seriously and that is why we are taking this action. Rosemont likes to talk about the economics of this mine, but the economic costs will be catastrophic if the WQAB and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality shirk their responsibilities and allow the permanent destruction of southern Arizona's water resources by this foreign mining company.”
She added: “The stakes are too high. The damage Rosemont will inflict on our region is permanent and can't be reversed. The agencies tasked with responsibility to protect our water must do their job.”