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Rosemont copper project to break ground in '13

Keywords: Tags  Augusta Resource, Rosemont project, copper, molybdenum, environmental permit, Kathy Arnold, Leanna Orr

NEW YORK — Augusta Resource Corp.’s Rosemont copper project is on track to break ground in April next year, regulatory approvals permitting, a company executive told AMM.

"We’re ready to start as soon as the environmental approval process is done," said Kathy Arnold, Augusta’s vice president of environmental and regulatory affairs. "We’re ready to start tomorrow."

The mining project near Tucson, Ariz., has six out of nine necessary approvals. Arnold said she expects to receive an air permit from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality this quarter and anticipates approvals from the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service by April. After a mandatory 105-day appeal period, work can begin on the mine site.

At the moment, the Vancouver, British Columbia-based company is assisting the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service in the final stages of addressing feedback from the public on Augusta’s draft environmental impact statement. The two agencies received nearly 35,000 comments on the Rosemont report and must respond to each individually.

"It’s been a really labor-intensive process," Arnold said. "But in the long run, it’s worth a little bit of a delay to do this right so we don’t have any more hang-ups before final approval."

Even if the permitting process goes smoothly, production is still a long way off. "We’ve got plants to move, ground to level, roads and an interchange to build. We’ve got a lot to do before we can start producing," Arnold said. "Fortunately, we’ve got some really solid investors. That makes everything easier."

The Rosemont deposit has a reserve of 5.2 billion pounds of copper and 161 million pounds of molybdenum, according to company estimates.

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