The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Friday signed the final permit needed to clear the way for construction on the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine east of Green Valley and Sahuarita.
The decision delivers as many questions as answers, with opponents vowing to continuing the battle to derail the project while Rosemont owner Hudbay Minerals says it's considering next steps.
“Receiving the 404 Permit brings us another step closer to building Rosemont. We’re excited to achieve this milestone and are thankful for the tremendous support that we have received,” said Andre Lauzon, Vice President of Rosemont's Arizona Business Unit, in a press release.
The Clean Water Act permit was rejected in 2016, but that decision was reversed and the permit signed Friday.
The permit allows mine Hudbay, of Canada, to use Coronado National Forest land to place tailings on about 2,500 acres next to its mine site on the eastern side of the Santa Rita Mountains.
Augusta Resource, the mine's original owner, filed a Mine Plan of Operation in 2007, two years after buying the land. The Coronado National Forest finished a 10-year Environmental Impact Statement in 2017, and produced a Record of Decision on the project.
The project has been contentious from the outset, with detractors concerned over water use, the effects on tourism and the environment, among many other issues. Proponents pointed to jobs and new mining methods that will dramatically cut down on water use. Augusta Resource sold the mine to Hudbay in 2014.
Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, which has opposed the mine from the beginning, issued a statement Friday saying, “We are committed to continuing to fight it,” most likely in court, according to a spokesman for the group.
Mine owners have said in the past that it would likely take two years from the time of the permit approval to actual digging. A Hudbay spokesman said Friday next steps are yet to be determined and that they expect a possible court challenge.
The company touted the economic benefits of what they call “one of the largest construction projects in the history of southern Arizona.” According to a press release, the $1.9 billion project will employ up to 2,500 people during the construction phase, with 500 permanent jobs.
Dan Shearer | 520-547-9770