Proposed Arizona mine passes federal regulatory hurdle

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TUCSON, Ariz. — The proposed Rosemont Mine in Arizona has passed one federal regulatory hurdle after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided that the project no longer needs a Clean Water Act permit.

The federal agency said Wednesday that the mine is not covered by the Clean Water Act because of Trump administration changes to federal rules that govern which streams receive regulatory control.

The decision still does not permit the mine to be built. Other legal hurdles remain before the $2 billion project can begin southeast of Tucson, the Arizona Daily Star reported

The ruling overturns previous determinations by the agency, mostly about a decade ago, that it had the authority to regulate mine discharges under the Clean Water Act.

Hudbay Minerals, which had previously asked the Corps to remove jurisdiction from the mine site, supported the decision.

“We are pleased with the Corps’ decision that there are no Waters of the United States within the Rosemont project area, which is consistent with our own view. This determination is a positive step in advancing the Rosemont project,” the organization said.

Stuart Gillespie is a representative for three tribes that have challenged federal approvals of the mine in court: the Tohono O’odham, Pascua Yaqui and Hopi. Gillespie said the decision is inconsistent with separate court actions by the Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The Corps should be ashamed of this decision to rush headlong forward, abdicate jurisdiction over the Rosemont Mine site, and give the mining industry a free pass to destroy some of Arizona’s richest streams and ecosystems,” Gillespie said.

A Clean Water Act permit was one of two crucial permits needed for the mine to start construction, the newspaper reported. The other permit would be from the U.S. Forest Service, the newspaper reported. A federal judge in Tucson tossed the Forest Service’s approval in 2019. Hudbay and the federal government appealed, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals must decide whether to uphold that ruling.

The Associated Press