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Aug 29, 2013 7:09 PM by Nathan O'Neal

Rosemont Copper announced land conservation plan, critics wary

TUCSON - Rosemont Copper announced its land conservation plans Thursday morning but critics say it ignores the environmental impact that the mine could have itself.

As compensation for the impending impact that the mine could create on the environment, Rosemont Copper officials worked to identify 4,500 acres of land in five separate sites to actively preserve. The plan also grants more than 550 million gallons of water per year in private surface water rights to the public.

"I think the most significant part of our program has been to acknowledge that there will be impacts at the site that can't be avoided or minimized and so to compensate for those we've put together a series of five parcels that have high environmental and recreational value," said Jamie Sturgess, Rosemont Copper Vice President of Corporate Development and Government Affairs.

Morris Farr, who is the Vice Chair of Save the Santa Ritas Association, argues the mine would create a permanent problem and there's no going back from that.

"To talk about mitigation is really kind of a bad joke," Farr said.

Gayle Hartman who is president of the group said that "it is indisputable that the proposed Rosemont Mine will permanently alter two watersheds that provide drinking water to Tucson."

However, Rosemont officials point out that the sites selected were based on the goals of both federal and state agencies as well as the community as a whole - geared at protecting cultural sites, vulnerable wildlife and public water rights "for generations to come."

Still, Farr is concerned for the proposed mines impact on surrounding areas.

"The only solution, the only outcome which is acceptable is that we leave that mountain range and that beautiful valley intact," Farr said.

Sturgess admits that the planning process has been challenging and for other invested in the land.

"But that challenge makes for a stronger product and project so we think our project is finally going to get approved soon," Sturgess said.

There are a few procedural hurdles for Rosemont Copper to overcome still but it hopes to have the project fully approved and begin construction early next year.

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