It will be released on the Web on Friday, said Jim Upchurch, the Coronado National Forest supervisor.
Upchurch said Tuesday that he has been negotiating with other agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency in hopes of coming up with an agreement on some basic questions on how to resolve key issues, so the final Rosemont Mine environmental impact statement can be released. Wednesday, he said it will be posted on Friday.
He said the issues he is trying to reach agreement on today don't include the final details of planned Rosemont Copper mitigations for the mine's impacts on Cienega Creek and Davidson Canyon -- which EPA wrote in early November are unacceptable. Such detailed issues will take up to four months to resolve -- the period the Forest Service has to make a final decision after the final EIS is released, Upchurch said.
Upchurch was hoping this week to get agreement from EPA and other agencies on "a plan to go forward" after the EIS is released to get the issues resolved. He declined to elaborate, saying he doesn't wish to negotiate these delicate details in the press.
"We would publish it on the Web this week for informational purposes," Upchurch said.
A printed version is slated for release in mid-December. This also when the draft record of decision will be released. It will not be quick bedtime reading. The final document including six appendices is likely to consume close to 2,500 pages.
"I think we're close," Upchurch said Tuesday. "I think we'll get there. We're trying to finish up and have time to review and look at it, time to give everyone enough time to resolve the issues. You're not going to resolve all the issues this week."
Once the final report comes out, then the Forest Service will negotiate the details of mitigations with EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers and other cooperating agencies, Upchurch said.
The list of issues to be resolved is long, based on agency comments on a draft version of this final EIS that the Forest Service released in December.
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, for instance, had raised concerns about whether releases from the mine would damage water quality in downstream Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management had raised concerns about whether the mine's lowering of the water table to dig the open pit would reduce Cienega Creek's flows, contrary to Forest Service statements based on computer models that this impact would be minimal.
Pima County, the National Park Service and EPA had raised concerns about air quality. The Arizona Game and Fish Department, while it reached agreement with Rosemont Copper on wildlife mitigation plans and issues, had also raised concerns about the potential of the mine's dry stack tailings to pollute groundwater with sulfates and dissolved solids. It also raised concerns about the possibility that the closing of the mine will leave behind a contaminated pit lake in the open pit area that would injure or kill birds that fly in. And so on.
"I think we’re good with agreeing on the effects," Upchurch said. "It’s getting agreement on the level of mitigation, which is not all under my control. Although we can disclose the effects, I can’t force mitigation on areas off the national forest. You just have to work with other agencies to do that."
In a statement, the ADEQ said Tuesday that, "As with all others who commented, ADEQ awaits the Coronado’s final responses to our comments" on the preliminary fnal EIS. "We presume our concerns will be satisfactorily addressed when the final FEIS is published."
John Notar, a National Park Service meteorologist in Denver, said Tuesday that his agency hasn't received a response to its comments on air quality since it made them in August. That means its concerns that the mine could hurt visibility and worsen nitrogen oxide levels in the air haven't been resolved, he said.
Tim Shannon, a BLM official in Tucson, declined on Monday to say anything about where the bureau now stands in relation to the mine, until the final EIS is released. Its comments on the earlier draft of this EIS were eyebrow-raising, showing for the first time that the bureau was fairly concerned about impacts to Davidson and Cienega. Since then, the Forest Service has made some revisions to its statements, BLM has commented on them but the bureau declined to release its comments.
"It's not my position to make a comment at this time," said Shannon, BLM's district manager in Tucson. "There's a process here. BLM is participating in that process. . . I don't want to get ahead of that process. That is not the BLM position."