After more than a decade of controversy, the proposed Rosemont Copper project is steps closer to becoming reality, with federal agencies issuing two key permits in March.
Controversy over the mine first arose in 2005 when Augusta Resources, a Canadian mining company, purchased the land in the Santa Rita Mountain range, southeast of Tucson. The company later merged with Hudbay Minerals. A plan of operation was filed in 2007.
Though the permits are a victory for Rosemont Copper, a fourth lawsuit was filed March 27.
The copper mine would occupy 4,000 acres of land in the Santa Rita Mountains. Hudbay Minerals says the site is home to an estimated 7 billion pounds of copper. The $1.9 billion project would function for nearly 20 years.
Though more than a dozen federal and state agencies have reviewed the plan, the project remains controversial. Tony Davis, a reporter at the Arizona Daily Star, explained that one set of studies indicated environmental impacts to the region would be delayed for hundreds of years, while studies done by the Environmental Protection Agency and Bureau of Land Management show any impacts will be significant. Davis said the struggle over the project in government bureaucracy has been like a war, calling it "legendary."
“I have never seen anything like this, and I’ve been a reporter for almost 45 years.”
Davis says understanding the issue requires attention to Arizona's unique relationships with both copper and the environment.
“We are watching a collision between those two values that are intrinsic to our very being.”