In this week's print edition, I reported on Rosemont's Copper's problems with acquiring a Section 404 permit under the Clean Water Act, which is key to getting approval for its plans for an open-pit mine in the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson.
More bad news for Rosemont today: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has told the U.S. Forest Service it intends to reinitiate its consultation with the federal agency regarding the Final Biological and Conference Opinion.
In a May 16 letter to Coronado National Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch, Fish and Wildlife Field Supervisor Steven L. Spangle said that the consultation had to re-evaluated for several reasons, including the impact on ocelot habitat and the impact on Southern Arizona waterways. (You can read the entire letter here.)
Rosemont officials downplayed the news in a press release.
"While we are disappointed with any delay, our expectation is that these final issues will be handled in a timely, expeditious manner," said Gil Clausen, president and CEO of Augusta Resource Corporation, the parent company of Rosemont Copper.
Rosemont acknowledged that the permitting process would not likely be completed by the end of June, as it had previously projected.
"The USFS has commented informally that it may not be in a position to issue the final Record of Decision (ROD) by the end of the second quarter of 2014," according to today's press release. "However, until the USFS determines whether consultation with the US FWS must be re-initiated and publishes the definitive ROD schedule, expected by the end of May, it is uncertain when the ROD will be issued. The Company believes that the ROD may be delayed until the third quarter of 2014."
Mine opponents said the latest news was another major setback for the mining company.
“The Army Corps already decided that Rosemont’s mitigation plan falls woefully short of compensating for the damage it would do, and now the Fish and Wildlife Service is indicating that the mine’s impacts could be worse than it feared,” said Randy Serraglio of the Center the Biological Diversity in a press release. “Taken together, these decisions are a one-two punch that could be a knockout.”
In other Rosemont news, the financially squeezed company announced that one of its lender had agreed to release $6 million to the company ahead of schedule. (Read the press release here.) That could give the company breathing room while it fights off a hostile takeover attempt by Hudbay Minerals.