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Mediator: Rosemont Mine sides too polarized to talk

Udall Foundation won’t enter fray, citing anger in community

Backers and critics of the planned Rosemont Mine in the Santa Rita Mountains are too polarized for discussions to do any good, a mediation expert says.

“Given the current character of public opinion, there appears to be little room for truly collaborative dialogues,” said Larry Fisher, senior program manager at the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution.

Fisher said Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., had asked the Morris K. Udall Foundation affiliate whether bringing pro- and anti-mine groups together would be productive.

The topic of discussion is Augusta Resource Corp.’s design for a open pit copper mine southeast of Tucson.

Giffords also asked the Institute whether stronger public input into the federal environmental analysis process by the U.S. Forest Service would help.

“There is a strong sense of angst, anger, and polarization in the community,” over the Canada-based firm’s mining proposal, Fisher said.

“We’re not going to waste people’s time to set up a process that is not useful.”

Giffords is deeply disappointed that the Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution will not convene the work group, said Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin.

Mine supporters say that the operation would create hundreds of jobs and boost the area’s economy. They also say the mining operation would be environmentally friendly, and not negatively impact regional groundwater supplies, either.

Critics of the mine say it would degrade the environment, destroy wildlife habitat, draw down already dwindling groundwater supplies and offer only temporary jobs.

The Forest Service has the final say over whether the mine will be approved. The agency first must complete an environmental impact study to determine if the operation would comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.

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