EPA says Corps failed to adequately consult on Rosemont Mine permitting decision

Site of the proposed Rosemont open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson 

By Tony Davis | Arizona Daily Star

The Environmental Protection Agency says the Army Corps of Engineers violated a key federal policy and unfairly kept it in the dark in advance of a recent decision to remove Clean Water Act permitting authority over the proposed Rosemont Mine.

The Corps’ March 24 decision to waive its jurisdiction over the mine site will free mining company Hudbay Minerals Inc. from potential future requirements on an extensive and protracted permitting process that had lasted more than a decade. The Corps said new federal rules covering regulation of development along washes no longer require Hudbay to get a Clean Water Act permit.

In an Aprll 8 letter to the Corps, a top official in EPA’s regional office, Tomas Torres, contended the Corps violated a federal policy that would have involved much more formal and detailed consultation with EPA before the decision.

The Corps’ decision came after lower-level EPA officials told the agency in informal memos that the mine site still deserved federal regulation.

The Corps disagreed, and said in its decision that the issues involving its authority over the washes didn’t merit such consultation with EPA.

A longtime mine opponent, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, said failure to adequately consult with the nation’s top environmental agency could have led to an erroneous decision and made it a less informed decision.

Huckelberry called what he saw as the Corps’ failure to adequately consult with EPA a problem of due process. “Without that input the decision is less informed. It means that EPA’s perspective isn’t considered. Input from EPA might have altered the decision,” he said.

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