So. AZ residents discuss pros and cons of copper mine

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tonight, southern Arizonans are talking about the pluses and minuses of the controversial Rosemont Copper mine in Vail.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has issued a draft air quality permit for Rosemont's planned open pit operation in the Santa Rita mountains, southeast of Tucson.

Opponents of the copper mine say the copper mine tailings, leftovers after a mining operation, from Rosemont will be 850 feet high. That's 3 times taller than this tallest building in Tucson.

"We're going to be 6 miles away from the center of the mine pit," said Greg Shinsky, who opposes the project.

"If the wind blows in the right direction., which everyday the westerlies blow in our direction, we're going to end up with lots of dust in the air," he said.

"It's kind of hard for me to imagine how an open pit mine with dry tailings will not omit toxic polluted dust into the community," said Gayle Hartman, who is against the mine.

The scenic Santa Rita Mountains are one of the many treasures of Arizona.  But, ask some people and so is the copper buried deep within these mountains, which is worth a lot.

"Most people don't realize it but at the turn of the century. One out of four people in Arizona worked in a mine," said Bill Assenmacher, with the Southern Arizona Business coalition.

"The star in the middle of the Arizona flag isn't gold.  It's copper," he said.

"You can't stop progress.  It's got to happen," said Dave Williams, in support of the mine.

As the deadline to make a decision gets closer, emotions on both sides of the fence are heating up.

"It always gets more emotional.  The other side knows they're going to be overwhelmed, it's gotta go. It has to happen. Just NIMBY logic again that's what it's all about," Williams said.

NIMBY stands for "not in my backyard". Concerned residents say sure, but it is everyone's back yard. They worry about the long term effects at the cost of short term gains.

It would create a $1 billion income for Pima County and about 450 jobs.

"Well, I have to laugh.  If you count the jobs, 400-450, that's 1/10% of the economy of Pima County," said Hartman.

"In the old days they didn't give a hoot. should we care?  Absolutely. That's what this is about, making sure they're in compliance. They'll do the best job they can," Williams said.

Those who didn't make it tonight's hearing can still have their say by contacting Arizona Department of Environmental Quality,

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