Arizona Daily Star does hatchet job on proposed Rosemont Mineby Hugh Holub on Jul. 16, 2011, under politics
From Inside Tucson’s Business:
Arizona Daily Star does hatchet job on proposed Rosemont Mine
By Hugh Holub, Inside Tucson Business Inside Tucson Business
The following story was bannered across the front page of the Arizona Daily Star on July 1:
Forest Service foresees huge scenic impact over Rosemont’s projected life
Irretrievable loss’ at mine site
By Tony Davis
“The contrast between today’s view of the Rosemont Mine site and a U.S. Forest Service simulated photo of its future couldn’t be more striking.
“Today, milepost 44 of Arizona 83 southeast of Tucson offers views of juniper-covered, rolling foothills in the foreground and tree-and-grass-covered ridges to the rear in the Santa Rita Mountains.”
The “before” and “after” pictures of what the Rosemont Mine site would look like from State Route 83 (the road from Vail to Sonoita) were bannered at the top of the front page.
Now consider this buried in the story:
“To get a handle on visual effects, the Forest Service analyzed how the mine would look from eight vantage points, based on five possible mine designs. The viewing areas ring the mine site from Sahuarita Road 11 miles northwest of the mine to Sonoita on the southeast, and include vantage points at mileposts 44 and 46 and along Arizona 83. “
Oh….there’s seven other “before” and “after” photo simulations out there.
Many people in Tucson, Green Valley and Sahuarita believe they will be able to see the Rosemont Mine from those locations.
One of the “viewpoint” locations analyzed in the preliminary draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) is called “Viewpoint 9″.
Here is what it says about “Viewpoint 9″:
“This viewpoint is along East Sahuarita Road, with the Santa Rita Mountains visible to motorists eastbound while traveling from Sahuarita and Interstate 19 toward Corona de Tucson and State Route 83 north of the Santa Rita Ecosystem Management Area boundary. It is a popular thoroughfare for rural residents who live near the forest boundary. It is also representative of the Tucson residential view of the Santa Rita Mountains
The outlying area of Tucson is approximately 8 miles to the north of the road, but views of the Santa Rita Mountains would be similar because the aspect would be comparable to Sahuarita Road views.
Now here is what the DEIS says about the visual impacts of the mine from Viewpoint 9…which is what most people in Tucson and Green Valley would see:
This viewpoint is located at a point along Sahuarita Road, approximately 11 miles northwest of the proposed mine site. The results of the geographic information system calculated viewshed analysis show that from this viewpoint, only the Scholefield-McCleary Alternative impacts would be visible. Thus, no simulations were produced and no analyses were conducted for the proposed action, Phased Tailings, Barrel, or Barrel Trail Alternatives from viewpoint 9.
The “proposed action” of the Forest Service would have no visual impacts to viewers along I-19 and I-10…the people of Tucson and Green Valley would see nothing changed.
Anyone who has actually looked at the mapping of the proposed mine can clearly see that the mine and its tailing pile will NOT be visible from Green Valley, Sahuarita or Tucson.
One must ask why the Star chose to show the State Route 83 view and not the view the people living in Tucson and Green Valley would see.
Now…I’d be posting the other “before” and “after” photos from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement here so everyone could see what the visual impact of the mine would be…especially from Viewpoint 9.
But I cannot do that because the Draft EIS was given to local governments for their review before being released to the public.
On top of every page of the Draft EIS is the notice: Draft – Deliberative – Not for Public Distribution.
But someone from government agencies that got copies leaked it to the Star….so the Star could pound away on the mine project without anyone else having a chance to consider it for themselves.
The Star, to its credit, did put up pdf files of the DEIS. http://azstarnet.com/news/local/collection_fe036d6a-8d5c-11e0-a1f9-001cc4c03286.html
However the Star left one important piece out.
According to the DEIS “The fully displayed panoramic simulations for all of the action alternatives, as seen from all of the analysis viewpoints, are located on a CD in appendix D in the sleeve of the DEIS.”
The “before” and “after” photo simulations are on a CD whose contents were not posted by the Star.
The Star obviously used on the photo simulations for its July 1 story….but access to the other photo simulations is not available.
Thus you and I cannot see Viewpoint 9.
To put just one of 8 “before” and “after” photo simulations on its front page and ignore the other 7…especially the one (Viewpoint 9) most relevant to the people of the region….now isn’t that interesting?
Even more interesting is the truth that the proposed alternative would have no visual impact on Green Valley or Tucson…thus the DEIS doesn’t even show that one because the “before” and “after” pictures would be exactly the same. What you see now is what you will always see.
The Viewpoint 9 simulation is only for an alternative that the Forest Service does not recommend.
Seeing how the Star handled the visual impact issue one can seriously argue that instead of trying to tell the whole story about the mine, the paper chose to function more like a blog for the opponents of the mine and try and rile up opposition to the mine in Tucson and Green Valley.
The truth is the mine’s Forest Service proposed alternative would not have any visual impact on Tucson and Green Valley.
And, finally, the DEIS has an interesting discussion about mitigation of view impacts of the mine:
The Barrel Trail or a similarly designed alternative probably has the best opportunities for landforming on the waste rock and tailings piles (shaping the outer surface to mimic natural forms to visually blend into the surrounding landscape). As proposed, none of the action alternatives meet scenic quality objectives in the forest plan or mitigate visual impacts well.
Visual impacts from the proposed action and action alternatives could be reduced through inclusion of measures that would result in the open pit and tailings and waste rock facilities that help the mine features better blend into the surrounding landscape. These measures could include the following: (1) topographic land forming and slope recontouring on the waste rock and tailings piles to recreate or mimic the surrounding natural topography and landscape forms; (2) planting of trees and shrubs on the waste rock and tailings piles; and (3) treatment (e.g., painting, staining, or desert varnish) of the visible areas of the mine pit and terraced slopes, along with the pit diversion channel, to darken the exposed and unweathered rock, to mimic the surrounding landscape colors. However, these methods are not currently incorporated into the proposed action or action alternatives.
The Forest Service is investigating the feasibility of geomorphic design (sometimes called landforming) and construction of the Rosemont mine waste rock and tailings piles. Landforms of geomorphic design can create more stable, natural functioning, and natural looking topography than conventionally designed landforms, which could mitigate some impacts to water quality and quantity, visual quality, recreation settings, and wildlife habitat. The Forest Service plans to explore the status of geomorphic landform design in the mining industry. If these investigations show that geomorphic landform deign is feasible for the Rosemont project we will then apply geomorphic principles to at least one alternative. This investigation and potential design work will take place between the DEIS and FEIS.
In combination, exploring and implementing these measures could substantially reduce scenic quality impacts in the long term by reducing the form, color, line, and texture contrasts created by surface disturbances and exposure of unweathered subsurface rock and soil. The mitigation effects would reduce landscape contrasts by blending the mine disturbances with the surrounding landscape, encouraging denser revegetation and surface coverage along more natural patterns of plant development and succession, and reducing the number of engineered drainage structures (Golder Associates Inc. 2010). Under this reclamation and mitigation regime, it is possible that postmine closure impacts would be more rapidly reduced and that portions of the mine would more quickly meet low to moderate scenic integrity objectives (see table 3.1).
Some mitigation measures mentioned in chapter 2 do not yet have sufficient information or commitment for consideration in this analysis. Although planting vegetation (and in some cases, watering) is mentioned, no details about species, sizes, locations, or availability has been provided. Mitigation mentioned in chapter 2 also includes testing ways to darken or weather the light-colored exposed rock faces, but there is no commitment to follow through with this mitigation measure. The use of weathering agent, which has been used on several projects on the Coronado National Forest, may be effective in darkening rock. Compensatory land mitigation is also mentioned, but no details about land locations or potential scenic benefits have been provided.
Mitigation mentioned in chapter 2 includes the intent to reduce or eliminate future development of private lands currently owned by Rosemont Copper that would eventually be located on top of waste rock and tailings piles (i.e., Rosemont Ranch). Rosemont Copper and the Coronado will work together to reduce or eliminate future development of these lands that could compromise reclamation of waste rock and tailing areas over the long term. This analysis assumes that these efforts will limit future development and that future impacts to visual resources will not occur.
Further mitigation of the Rosemont Copper Mine would be beneficial to protect visual resources, including measures described here. These measures would minimize short-term, long-term, and permanent impacts from the project and would ultimately reduce cumulative effects on scenic quality in southeastern Arizona.
One can read this and get an idea where the Forest Service is going in terms of conditions it may try to impose on the Rosemont Mine project to mitigate the visual impacts. Which are basically to contour the tailings pile to look more natural and stain the portion of the mine pit wall so it is the same color as the surrounding rock. Not bad ideas.
Here are links to the portions of the DEIS that discuss the visual impact issues:
Chapter 2 Alternatives including Proposed Action
Chapter3 Visual Resources
The point was the Star did not show the before and after view of the mine from where most of the people in Tucson and Green Valley would be able to see….no change…because no one in Green Valley or Tucson would be able to see the mine or its tailings piles.