FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Forest Service donates 4,000 acres of public forest for destruction by mining corporation
Tucson, Arizona – December 14, 2013 – Residents of southern Arizona will face impacts on their water, air and highway safety. They wonder how the Forest Service is “caring for the land and serving the people.”
The Forest Service’s stated has been side-swiped in a recent decision to destroy 296,000 trees forever in the Coronado National Forest in Arizona? A mining operation has been okayed that includes a give-away of over 4,000 acres to be destroyed and to create a toxic lake in a habitat of wildlife (deer) and bird migration.
The Coronado Supervisor, Jim Upchurch, stated, “My decision to approve the proposal is guided by federal law,” Upchurch said. “My decision allows Rosemont Copper to develop its mineral resource while requiring a wide array of mitigation and monitoring steps that will minimize or avoid impacts on (National Forest) lands to the extent practicable.”
Avoid impacts? How can he make such a statement when the Forest Service’s count shows almost 300,000 trees [ http://www.savethesantacruzaquifer.info/FS-summary-of-trees-to-destroy.pdf ] (includes an estimated 33,000 mature, centuries-old oaks) and thousands of acres will be destroyed. The size of the pit lake will exceed 150 surface acres with a volume of over 90,000 acre-feet of water. The Forest Service has been kicking around the 4,000 acre figure that they will donate for the project, but according to the Augusta Resource report to investors on their website, they have “unpatented mining claims on about 16,000 acres of public land that is administered by the U.S. Forest Service.” Note that they have a total of 20,000 acres—so the vast majority of their mining operations relies on public National Forest Land. [ http://www.augustaresource.com/Investors/FAQ/default.aspx ].
And the highway safety issue is not an impact? According to Rosemont’s the deaths on the winding, Scenic Highway 83 will be 1 to 2 a year instead of 1 every 3 years. The accidents are predicted to at least double from 30 a year to 61 – 107 accidents per year. The danger has been officially file with the FS and ADEQ, so the persons who become the victims will have legal standing in the “no impact.”
[ www.savethesantacruzaquifer.info/highway_safety.htm ]
Evidently, the Forest Service officials have not read the 1872 Mining Law that they cling to. Is it because the document cannot be found on any Government website? The General Mining Law of 1872, as amended (30 USC 29 and 43 CFR 3860), provides the successful mining claimant the right to patent (acquire absolute title to the land) mining claims or sites if they meet certain statutory requirements. To meet this requirement, the successful claimant must:
- For mining claims, demonstrate a physical exposure of a valuable (commercial) mineral deposit (the discovery) as defined by meeting the Department’s Prudent Man Rule and Marketability Test.
- For mill sites, show proper use or occupancy for uses to support a mining operation and be located on non-mineral land.
- Have clear title to the mining claim (lode or placer) or mill site.
- Have assessment work and/or maintenance fees current and performed at least $500 worth of improvements (not labor) for each claim (not required for mill sites).
- Meet the requirements of the Department’s regulations for mineral patenting as shown in the Code of Federal Regulations at 43 CFR 3861, 3862, 3863, and 3864.
- Pay the required processing fees and purchase price for the land applied for [ www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/regulations/mining_claims.html ]
From the 1872 Mining Law, we find five discrepancies with the current Augusta Resource Corp./Rosemont Copper mining project:
- The copper deposit is very low grade with average of 0.44% copper and 0.015% molybdenum.
- Augusta Resource Directors and stockholders are not U. S. Citizens. [Arizona Corporation Commission verified this fact when Augusta Resource did not disclose a Board Member’s bankruptcy in their Corporation filings. The ACC ruled it was okay, since it was a foreign company!!]
- It is clear that the mining claims for the individual prospector is limited, whereas Augusta/Rosemont is claiming 16,000 acres.
- Land intended for milling, etc. is to be patented. [Not only has the land for processing not been patented, about a fourth of the pit is on unpatented land!]
- Patented land intended for milling, etc. should not exceed five acres. [Augusta has 90 mining claims, which would entitle them to purchase 450 acres for milling and processing, yet the Forest Service is handing over 4,000 acres of unpatented land to a mining company that has never produced a mine!!)
Mr. Upchurch’s decision was made by the Forest Service officials in Washington, who have never seen the destruction of a copper mine [ http://www.mining-law-reform.info/Reality.htm ]. They had Upchurch back in Washington a few months ago giving him instructions. A former Forest Service Chief in the Clinton administration (1993-1996) has done the public a great service by disclosing the reality of Forest Service decisions. Chief Jack Ward Thomas kept a journal throughout his service: The Journals of a Forest Service Chief.
Do we think our Federal Forest Service should do better for taxpayers who are paying their salaries? The fact is Rosemont is paying the Foresters. Yes, every minute the Forest Service works on NEPA or the Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) is charged to Rosemont. Is this a conflict of interest? We taxpayers can’t afford a few million to pay the foresters for mining analysis, but we can afford the high price for mining contamination. The total cost of cleaning up metal mining sites throughout the West was estimated at $32 billion in 2007. EPA has also reported that more than 40 percent of Western watersheds have mining contamination in their headwaters (EPA Headwaters 2000), which costs unanalyzed money to local governments. Slideshow of trees to be destroyed.
This decision is contrary to the Forest Service’s continual research and release of reports stating the importance of forests for watershed and clean water. In fact, the Forest Reserves in the Southwest were created specifically for adequate water for residents of the towns and cities. If you do an Internet search of Forest Service water and watershed, you will find a couple of dozen reports touting the importance of forests and water, clean water and even climate change. Why isn’t this research, which cost millions of taxpayer dollars to produce, being used in the real world by the Foresters?
Another egregious duplicity of the Forest Service in their saying one thing and doing another is the recent Forest Planning Rule. Secretary Vilsack and Chief Tidwell conferenced with media persons regarding the Forests and the Plan. [ www.mining-law-reform.info/Forest-Planning-Rule-EIS.htm ]
USDA Secretary Vilsack stated at the beginning of the call: “I think we all recognize that our forests are extraordinarily vital. They provide clean water, clean air; they are a job producer, they are also enormous recreational opportunities, and jobs that are associated with that, they obviously home to habitat, wildlife. They have a range of benefits for all Americans. We are proud to have publicly owned National Forest that consists of 193 million acres, which belong to every single citizen in this country.”
He goes on to emphasize, again and again: “forest restoration.” Why emphasize restoration instead of protection? If they would stop permitting hundreds of mines to destroy the forests, then restoration would not be such a big issue—and cost. At this moment 170 mining projects are being permitted in the West to destroy unknown acres of forest and trees—the FS does not disclose those numbers on their websites. So the Forest Service does not turn down a mine—and they do not keep adequate records of the mining projects and permits.
Secretary Vilsack and Chief Tidwell speak of restoration, instead of protection of watersheds, even though a Forest Service report states that once a watershed is destroyed: “Even with aggressive management, that momentum [of current damage rate] will not be overcome within the next 100 years under projected funding. Progress toward forest health restoration can be expected to proceed very slowly…. These findings suggest that it will not be feasible to restore all degraded areas.” [ www.stream.fs.fed.us/publications/PDFs/Water_and_FS.pdf ]
Further, the National Forest Planning Rule provides the guidelines for creating a Forest Plan for the individual Forests. Why are Vilsack and Tidwell bothering to discuss it when the individual Foresters ignore their own Forest Plans? The Coronado Forest supervisor circumvented an on-going process on a revised Forest Plan. The Plan in place did not allow mining operations. Neither did the revised Plan mention mining. FS officials had plenty of time to bring up their intent of adding mining to the Plan during 2008- 2010 public process. In October, 2010, FS announced open houses to present the initial the working draft of revised Forest Plan and potential wilderness evaluation reports. www.fs.fed.us/r3/coronado/documents/DEIS-ch2Vol1.pdf
Then we participants received no further notice until we found an amendment to the Plan buried in the Rosemont Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). No public notice of a new Amendment proposed in page 89 in Chapter 2 had been given. The DEIS cannot serve as a Public Notice for an Amendment because no Public Notice was given with the release of the DEIS. A notice tucked into the back of a chapter of a 1,000-page document does not qualify under the NFMA. Those of us who participated and received notices on the Forest Plan by e-mail for four years received no notice. We are dealing with a Forest Service personnel that states “a preliminary review of the proposed amendment indicate that it would likely not be a significant amendment to the Coronado Forest Plan.” (DEIS, pg. 95)
The mining company has been a real star at duplicity—they have made false claims on filings and to investors and SEC, stating that they have adjourning lands to develop, which would entail a creating a larger Environmental Impact. [ www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1353123/000106299312003366/exhibit99-1.htm ] Yet they told EPA and other officials that they do not know the copper content in the other areas. On one occasion last year, there was a spill of drilling mud that flowed down to Forest Service land Rosemont did not report to National Response Center, as required by law. A Rosemont employee reported that they had 50 employees out at the site all night with a bucket brigade to clean up the mess, so no one would know. However, Rosemont officials denied the incident—and caused 50 employees to be complicit in the falsehood also. [ www.savethesantacruzaquifer.info/drilling-mud-spill.htm ]
The fact is the Forest Service is bending over backwards to give away trees and land to be destroyed—forever. They claim there will be reclamation, but they have a model in the forest. Six years ago, the mining company started test plots to see which grasses would grow best for reclamation. In six years, grass hasn’t even grown on the plot, much less trees. It would be easy to conclude it won’t happen on ground up rock and mining slurry. [ www.celebrate-earth.com/reclamation-plots-at-rosemont-compared-to-twin-buttes/ ]
Several local residents whose home, property, health and road safety will be impacted by the mining operations commented after the Forest Service decision: “This is what we expected.” They expected that the Forest Service would not do the right thing when their official mission clearly states:
“The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” [ www.fs.fed.us/aboutus/mission.shtml ]
For additional information, see articles by Tony Davis, AZ Daily Star
Forest Service will allow Rosemont, but mine is still not a sure thing
Forest Service: Rosemont will hurt air, reduce water flows but can’t be denied
White House council refereeing Rosemont mine debate
For comments by other agencies: AZ Fish and Game, EPA, Interior, see
P.O. Box 934
Green Valley, AZ 85622