Vancouver, B.C.-based Augusta Resource Corporation and its supporters continue to play fast and loose with the facts in their desperate bid to obtain permits and investors for the proposed Rosemont Copper mine.
Augusta and its Arizona subsidiary, Rosemont Copper Company, want to blast a mile-wide, half-mile deep open-pit copper mine just south of Tucson, Arizona, that would bury more than 3,000- acres of mountains, canyons and streams on the beautiful Coronado National Forest beneath billions of tons of mining waste stacked over 600 ft. high.
This mine waste would be laced with mercury, lead, arsenic and other poisons. Worse still, under a 141-year-old mining law, Augusta would inflict this environmental devastation and wouldn't pay U.S. taxpayers a single penny in royalties while generating billions of dollars in revenue
Is it too much to expect that Augusta, which has never operated a mine before, would act in good faith during a review process designed to protect America's forests, wildlife and water supplies along with nearby communities?
Apparently, it is.
Throughout the permitting process, Augusta, Rosemont and their supporters have repeatedly played footsy with the facts, bending the truth to their whim and in general acting like nasty schoolyard bullies who use their words to intimidate others.
The copper company is piling up a litany of lies through smoke-and-mirror tactics designed to shield the public from its singular goal: The royalty free extraction of America's wealth -- in the form of copper that will be exported to Korea, England and other foreign markets.
The pattern of deception by the company in its public regulatory filings and slick public relations campaigns is truly stunning. Here are just a few examples.
In addition to its Rosemont Mine site on the northeast side of the Santa Rita Mountains, Augusta has staked three additional mining claims on the ridge top and west side of the Santa Ritas. These other claims, if mined, would further devastate this mountain range that is home to the only remaining known jaguar in the U.S.
Although Augusta's CEO Gil Clausen repeatedly tells the public and the press that they "don't intend to do any mining development" on the west side, he's telling regulators and Augusta's investors a very different story.
In filings with Canadian securities regulators Clausen says those west side claims have mining potential and at least one of the claims could "be added as a satellite development" of the Rosemont project. Rosemont Copper's investor prospectus contains a similar admission, as does a World Mining Stocks feature article on the company.
Is Mr. Clausen misleading investors and regulators? Or is he misleading the public and the press? Because somebody isn't being told the truth.
Rosemont also claims that its mine will be a "state of the art," "21st Century operation," employing methods such as "dry stacking" that reduce environmental impacts. But even a quick look beyond the public relations spin shows that Rosemont is telling a different story to Arizona regulators. In an October 2011 letter to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Rosemont attorney Eric Hiser wrote that Rosemont was just another "typical open pit copper mine."
And it is well established that typical open pit copper mines -- in fact every open pit copper mine in Arizona or anywhere else has polluted the air, destroyed wildlife habitat or leaked poisons into area water supplies. Usually all of the above. Perhaps that's why the Arizona Department of Game and Fish Department concluded -- with refreshing honesty -- that it "believe(s) that the project will render the northern portion of the Santa Rita Mountains virtually worthless as a wildlife habitat and as a functioning ecosystem."
That doesn't sound very state of the art or 21st century. So who is Rosemont misleading this time? The public? Or State regulators at the Department of Environmental Quality?
In yet another example of why the public should not trust these people, Augusta claimed in an August 2012 feasibility study that engineering work on the $1.25 billion mine had been suspended in the summer of 2011. But Rosemont told investors in its 2011 annual report, released in March, that engineering work was continuing "throughout 2011."
Once again, Augusta is either misleading its investors or the public.
Rosemont's contradictory statements about its engineering work on the mine also conflict with its repeated assertion that it is working hard everyday to create a mine that exceeds regulatory standards. How hard could Rosemont really be working if "engineering" has been stopped?
If Rosemont would lie about something as fundamental as its engineering work, it's fair to ask what else the company is hiding?
Last Fall, Dan Shearer, editor of the Green Valley News uncovered another major deception surrounding the mine. Shearer was hosting a local radio show in Tucson in September 2012 when a Rosemont supporter claimed on air that a recent poll of Pima County voters (where the mine would be located) showed that supporters of the mine outnumbered opponents by a substantial margin.
While Shearer did not challenge him at the time, a few days later he called the supporter and asked to see the poll. The Rosemont supporter refused to share it, and through a series of pointed questions, Shearer concluded that the poll was illegitimate, politically skewed, and simply designed to rally mine supporters in the height of the election season.
Shearer wrote up the story, revealing Rosemont's dishonesty in all its glory.
Then, in January, Bill Assenmacher, President of the Southern Arizona Business Coalition, a Rosemont-funded organization, appeared on that same radio show with Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll. Pressed by Carroll on the aforementioned poll, Assenmacher again claimed that the poll showed overwhelming public support for the mine. When Carroll asked to see the poll, Assenmacher said that he had a "copy in my car that I will give to you after this meeting." But Assenmacher never provided the poll nor made it public.
Yet another charade! If the stakes were not so high, and if the threats from the mine to southern Arizona's farmers, ranchers, residents and businesses weren't so serious, the blunders and deceptions would all be laughable.
But Rosemont's cynicism goes even further beyond the pale when it comes to water, which is a hotly contested issue here in bone-dry Arizona. To Rosemont, water appears to be just another pawn in its public relations shell game. Rosemont consistently brags that it has purchased 45,000-acre feet of Central Arizona Project (CAP) water to replace water it intends to pump from the ground to operate the mine. But guess what? Rosemont's CAP water is actually being stored in Marana, Arizona, well upstream and out of reach to those people whose groundwater will be guzzled in unlimited amounts by the water hungry mine! Rosemont has "promised" to recharge water locally at some point in the future -- when it can.
Really? Are southern Arizonans and their elected officials supposed to trust Rosemont's promise when it has such an abysmal track record of deception and misrepresentation?
Augusta Resource and Rosemont Copper seem to view trust as a quaint commodity where the bottom line -- their bottom line -- always justifies the means. But their deceptive and duplicitous behavior shows they can't be trusted. It's that behavior that led Pima County's Carroll to conclude that Rosemont has "distorted their claim since day one... I have chosen not to believe their hype since their first misrepresentation was made years ago. They have done nothing to make me change my mind."
The litany of lies and deceptions shows that Augusta's and its subsidiary Rosemont's word is not worth the precious public ground upon which the junior mining company stands, ready to wreak its havoc and destruction.
Follow Frances Causey on Twitter: www.twitter.com/fcausey