State OK’s open-pit mine site’s reclamation plan near Tucson
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A reclamation plan for a proposed new copper open-pit mine’s site on the western slope of the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson has received state approval over opponents’ objections that Hudbay Minerals Inc. didn’t address major issues.
Meanwhile, supporters of the project called Hudbay’s reclamation plan for its Copper World project thorough and environmentally responsible, the Arizona Daily Star reported.
State Mine Inspector Joe Hart approved Hudbay’s reclamation plan on Oct. 19, four days after the office’s formal deadline for submitting public comments.
Comments by Pima County and environmentalists that the plan didn’t address water quality, water supplies and desert protection concern matters that should be handled by other agencies reviewing mine plans, the office’s staff said.
State approval of a reclamation plan is required for any Arizona mining project that would disturb at least five acres (two hectares) of private land.
Hart’s approval letter said the company must also provide a bond by Dec. 18 to guarantee that that the mine’s reclamation costs are financed.
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and a consultant hired by a conservation group said the plan was lacking in areas such as dust control, tailings disposal, groundwater quality and impacts to cultural resources long-term monitoring and maintenance of the site.
The two argued the reclamation plan is premature, having been filed with the state before Hudbay even formally proposed a plan to mine this area.
However, the Southern Arizona Business Coalition, a pro-mining advocacy group, wrote on Oct. 7, that Hudbay’s submission “provided a comprehensive preview” and demonstrated a commitment “to the process and bonding needed to complete the proposed plan.”
Hudbay officials have said the company’s drilling on private land has found copper deposits on the Santa Ritas’ west slope that are potentially rich enough grades to support up to three open pits.
They have also said it’s likely they’ll begin mining the west slope before they mine the Rosemont Mine site on the Santa Ritas’ east slope. That’s due in large part to the extended delays at Rosemont because of a 2019 federal court decision halting mine construction, now under appeal.
Hudbay officials have said they won’t make a formal decision to mine the west slope until finishing their drilling work at the site and completing a preliminary economic analysis of its value. The latter will happen in the first six months of 2022, they’ve said.
However, the reclamation plan said the mining company said explicitly it will build three open pits on the west slope.