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.”
Arizona 360 sat down with Rick Grinnell of the Southern Arizona Business Coalition. Grinnell explained why he believes the mining project could be beneficial to Arizona, detailing the job opportunities and potential increase in nationwide copper resources the mine would bring.
“It’s a solid, sustainable economic engine. It keeps people employed and when you have a better economy, the overall attitude of an environment of the community is better,” he said.
Gayle Hartmann of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas sat down with Lorraine Rivera to voice her disapproval of the Rosemont Copper Project. Hartmann discussed her concerns, which centered on water and wildlife.
“I think we really need to look at this in the long term. We have to learn how to reduce our impact on the world, on the Earth,” Hartmann said. “The Earth is not going to keep giving us resources and we simply have to do better.”
Reforming the criminal justice system was once again a topic of discussion at the Legislature in Phoenix. However, the push didn’t make many gains with lawmakers at the Capitol.
Emily Levett, state policy manager for fwd.us, joined Lorraine Rivera to discuss a recent Arizona poll. Levett said six bills for criminal justice reforms are getting blocked by a few legislative members, despite support from Arizonans.
Levett discussed the differences found in Arizona’s justice system versus the rest of the U.S.
“Since 2000, the number of people who have entered prisons — who have been admitted to prison for nonviolent drug and property crimes — has grown by 80 percent,” Levett said. “People stay behind bars in prison in Arizona far longer than other states.”
Levett said Arizona spends an estimated $1.1 billion on incarceration every year. “What the data shows is that putting more and more people in prison, especially for nonviolent crimes, does not make our community safer.”
Arizona 360 explores the parallels between Arizona and California weather with Valerie Trouet, an associate professor and UA distinguished scholar at UA Laboratory of Tree Ring Research.
Trouet explained what trees tell scientists about wet winters and summer wildfires.
“We didn’t expect the relationship between winter precipitation and then fire in the following season to disappear like that.”