By Tony Davis, Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Thursday, June 2, 2011

Approval of Rosemont Mine is proposed by the U.S. Forest Service in its draft environmental impact statement.

The document states: "The actions proposed in this DEIS are for the development of the Rosemont ore deposit owned by Rosemont Copper in a manner that does the following: complies with federal, state and local laws and regulations, reduces adverse environmental impacts on national forest lands, is without undue or unnecessary degradation of lands administered by the BLM, takes into consideration impacts to waters of the U.S.

"Rosement Copper is entitled to conduct operations that are reasonably incidental to exploration and development of mineral deposits on its mining claims, pursuant to U.S. mining laws."

"The proposed action is to approve the preliminary MPO (mine plan of operations) for construction, operation with concurrent reclamation and closure of an open-pit copper, molybdeum and silver mine."

The Forest Service also notes in the document that its options are limited. "Forest Service may reasonably regulate mining actitivies to protect surface resources but there are statutory and constitutional limits to its discretion when reviewing and approving an MPO. The Forest Service may reject an unreasonable MPO but cannot categorically prohibit ore processing or waste disposal or deny reasonable and legal mineral operations under the mining laws." The document points to the U.S.'s 1872 Mining Law and a series of later laws and regulations.

Nonetheless, the document does spell out many potential adverse environmental impacts from the mine, including:

• Ground disturbance from clearing vegetation, grading and stockpiling soils may accelerate erosion and reduce soil productivity.

• Construction, mining and reclamation activities may increase dust, airborne chemicals and transportation-related emissions. "Air quality standards may be compromised."

• The mine may reduce groundwater availability to private and public wells in the vicinity of the open pit. "Household water availability may be reduced."

The Forest Service turned over copies of the preliminary draft environmental impact statement on the mine Wednesday to numerous state and local agencies.

The statement lays out the service's view of what kind of effects the proposed mine would have on the land, water and air in and near the mine site, lying in the Santa Rita Mountains about 30 miles southeast of Tucson.

The state and local agencies, which cooperated with the Forest Service in discussing the environmental statement over the past few years, have 30 days to comment on the draft.

The Forest Service is scheduled to release a second draft to the public in August, after taking into account comments from the agencies on the first document.

Contact reporter Tony Davis at tdavis@azstarnet.com or 806-7746.

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