Canadian miner Hudbay Minerals (TSX, NYSE: HBM) scored a big win this week after the U.S. Forest Service approved the company’s mine plan of operations (MPO) for its $1.9 billion Rosemont copper project in Arizona.
“Rosemont is now a fully permitted, shovel-ready copper project and we look forward to developing this world-class asset,” president and chief executive Alan Hair said in a statement.
The project, located about 50 km southeast of Tucson, contemplates an open pit on the eastern slope of the Santa Rita that will churn out 112,000 tonnes of copper concentrate a year.
It’s expected to be the third-largest copper mine in the U.S., employing about 500 people and accounting for approximately 10% of the country’s total copper production.
Hudbay Minerals and Rosemont’s previous owner, Augusta Resources, had pushed to get the mine permitted for more than a decade, during which the project faced local opposition and skepticism from regulators about water issues in the semi-arid region.
Only last week, the Toronto-based miner received the long-awaited water permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, after outlining several measures to reduce impacts on the environment, including what it said it was an “unprecedented” use of dry-stack tailings.
Hudbay intends to squeeze water for reuse from about 528 million tonnes of processed ore and to reduce water use by about 50%, compared to what it would consume if it were to use conventional tailings.
Opponents, however, argue the measures still fall short.
We’re going to fight this,” U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Tucson, told the Tucson Sentinel after the announcement. “It’s not that I’m opposed to mining. I’m opposed to this mine because water’s a major problem in the area… (taking) water from the Green Valley aquifer will create irreversible water problems.”
Environmental and community groups and three nations, including the Tohono O’odham Nation, have already filed suit to try to overturn the Forest Service decision. They say they’ll likely try to overturn the Corps decision as well.
Hudbay has just bought out its partners in the copper venture and announced it would begin looking for a long-term joint venture partner to help finance the mine.