Comments by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords
Forest Service Public Hearing on Rosemont Mine
Elgin Elementary School
May 12, 2008
Let me begin my comments tonight by thanking the Forest Service for scheduling this and two more public meetings to receive comments on the proposed Rosemont Mine.
This is a complex and emotionally charged issue and it is critical that the review process be transparent and fully open to public input.
These meetings are a critical part of the scoping process and I came here tonight to emphasize the importance of listening to members of the community about the proposed mine operation.
The proposed mine raises serious environmental and community concerns and the views of residents must be heard. Tonight is the first opportunity to hear from the public and I welcome it.
I commend the Forest Service for extending the scoping period to 120 days from the original 30 days.
An undertaking of this significance requires sufficient time for all the issues to be identified before the Environmental Impact Statement is prepared and 30 days was simply not enough.
Additionally, it is important that the community and every relevant public agency be included in the review of all aspects of the impact this proposed mine will have on the area and its residents.
The Forest Service has made the right decision to establish working groups to participate in the review of the analyses that are identified in the Environmental Impact Statement. The involvement of citizens and agency experts will give credibility to the process.
I urge the Forest Service to move quickly to establish these working groups and to ensure that their membership is diverse and truly representative of the communities that will be affected by the mine and the public agencies which have the expertise to assist in this process.
To have maximum benefit from the work groups, they should be brought in to the process during the scoping period and before the Environmental Impact Statement is written.
These work groups will further enhance the credibility of the scoping process and will show the community that their interests will also continue to be considered as the environmental impact studies are reviewed.
Hard rock mines provide essential minerals that are incorporated into many of the goods we rely on in modern life, including our vehicles, our electronics, and our computers.
Copper is a critical component of solar panels, which can produce energy that does not use water and is positive for the environment.
In addition to these essential products, mining can also provide good jobs and economic growth for a community.
In Southern Arizona we also know very well that mines have created negative impacts and these issues must be taken into consideration when any mine is proposed.
The scoping process which is now underway must ensure that all potential impacts of the proposed mine are identified and properly analyzed.
It is obvious that the proposed mine will impact on the land and environment where the mine operation is located but it is also true that there areas away from the mine site will be affected.
The Environmental Impact Statement must address the region wide impact of the mine operation.
The following concerns and questions must be considered in this scoping process:
How will the mine's need for water impact on groundwater throughout the region?
How will it affect the availability of water in Sahuarita and Green Valley ?
How will groundwater use be replenished?
How will the mine affect the quality of our water supply?
How will the mine's use of water from Sahuarita impact the sulfate plume that currently exists from the nearby mine?
How will water be delivered to the mine and what will be the environmental impact of that delivery system?
How will the operation of a mine 24 hours a day, 7 days a week affect air quality in and around the mine site?
How will the scores of trucks that will transport ore impact on air quality in this pristine rural area?
How will noise from the mine site operation impact on the residents near the mine and those who come to the Santa Rita Mountains to enjoy the solitude of the outdoors?
How will the noise from trucks on the highway affect the area?
How will the energy needs of the proposed mine be met?
How will the installation of transmission lines to the mine impact on the land on which they will be built?
How will the safety of residents and tourists who travel along scenic highway 83 be assured when the mine operation results in many trucks driving on that highway each day?
What are the mine operator plans for Highway 83 and how will they affect its scenic designation?
What will be the affect on Highway 83 of so many heavy trucks and who will pay for the wear and tear on this road as a result of the increased use?
What will be the mine's impact on property values in the area?
What will be the mine's impact on tourism which is a major economic driver in the area?
Should the mine go into operation, how with the company assure the full restoration and reclamation of the land following the deposit of mine tailings on public land?
All these questions and more must be identified in the Environmental Impact Statement and must be fully analyzed before the Forest Service renders a decision.
I am sure that you will hear about these and other issues as you receive public testimony tonight.
To ensure that the Environmental Impact Statement covers all the relevant questions and concerns, I want to reiterate that the Forest Service should establish and convene the working groups before the end of the scoping process.
There are many well informed citizens who have contacted my office to request participation in the working groups. I encourage the Forest Service to consider them for membership on the working groups.
Citizens all across the country are calling on public agencies to conduct business in the most transparent and open manner possible.
I am pleased that the Forest Service has modified its scoping process to provide more opportunities for citizen involvement.
I encourage you to continue this practice throughout the next several months as you gather the data and information necessary to render a sound decision on the mine plan of operation.