On Wednesday, a group calling itself Save the Scenic Santa Ritas (SSSR) issued a press release intended to do damage to the Rosemont Mine, in Southern Arizona. In the release, the group falsely makes claims about a recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) letter issued to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) on November 7, 2013.
The term eco-terrorist is traditionally reserved for groups who have used violence to stop the harvesting of trees or minerals, but some are saying that the release of such distorted information has had the effect of terrorizing investors. The release appears to have been timed to hurt the company’s stock. One investor reportedly lost $50,000 over night after a panicked sale due to the inappropriate comments and distorted interpretations in the press release as other media outlets picked up on the false accusations.
“The SSSR press release today (Thursday) was not only inaccurate but another attempt to harm our company,” said Gil Clausen, Augusta’s president and CEO. “This group has historically mischaracterized the level of impact that letters between agencies have and obviously do not understand the permitting or the evaluation process. SSSR totally misrepresents the contents of the letter and the EPA’s comments actually said that they were looking forward to working with the Army Corps on mitigation and risk based assessments. For example, nowhere in the EPA’s letter did they discuss discharges as ‘toxic mine wastes’. The SSSR is fabricating information and attributing that information to EPA in an effort to scare our shareholders and disrupt markets.”
According to the Augusta Resource Corporation, the parent company of Rosemont Mine, “the EPA has been working diligently with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and other Federal Agencies to finalize the work required to complete the permitting process. The EPA letter refers to old plans and issues which were the basis of discussion and not decision. The ACOE will make their decisions based on facts, rules and regulations as they continue to maintain good dialog with the EPA.”
Due out next week, the final EIS has integrated five years of science based technical studies and analysis and the printed version of the draft Record of Decision (ROD) from the USFS is expected to be issued mid-December after the documents are printed. After the documents are released, the EPA will be able to work with other agencies and with Rosemont to finalize mitigation planning and to assure compliance with all regulations and permit conditions regarding the 404 Permit issued under the Clean Water Act.
Save the Scenic Santa Rita’s has tried everything they can to prevent the approval of the mine. This recent move was clearly intended to instill doubt in investors without whom, the mine could not open. Their intent to create doubt about the company’s financial health is evident in the latest statement: “The EPA’s recommendation to deny the Clean Water Act permits comes at an inopportune time for Augusta Resource, Rosemont Copper’s parent company. Its stock is hovering at a 52-week low and the company reported less than $750,000 in cash reserves as of Sept. 30, according to regulatory filings released last week. Augusta’s cash crisis raises serious questions as to whether Augusta will have the financial capacity to secure technical expertise to address EPA’s latest criticisms of the crucial Clean Water Act permit.”
Almost immediately after the release was issued Augusta’s stock dropped causing a brief, but expensive panic.
Save the Scenic Santa Rita’s also make claims about mitigation plans being “scientifically flawed” and “grossly inadequate.” Augusta, points out that Save the Scenic Santa Rita’s references to “scientific flaws” are “from a letter written almost a year ago and acknowledged that the assessment methods were what was prescribed by the ACOE and references a mitigation plan that is out of date and not currently in use. The EPA does not determine appropriate mitigations, this is the ACOE’s responsibility.”
Augusta claims it has developed a comprehensive environmental, social and cultural mitigation program with detailed monitoring and reporting protocols to address the concerns and requirements of numerous agency and permit requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act 404 processes.
Clausen said, “Rosemont has been working closely with the Federal Agencies for the past five years to ensure the appropriate mitigations are developed to address impacts. Throughout that time, the SSSR has consistently and purposely misrepresented the company’s intentions, the facts and the NEPA process. They have deliberately worked to undermine the obligations and work of the Agencies involved.”
Investors who lost money as a result of the false and or misleading claims by Save the Scenic Santa Rita’s, are encouraged to file complaints with the SEC.
According to the group, Save the Scenic Santa Ritas started in Sonoita, was originally called Swapwatch and included members of the Sierra Club, Tucson Audubon Society, The Wildlands Project, the Sonoran Institute, League of Conservation Voters, and the Wrong Mountain Wildlife Preserve. They incorporated and changed their name to Save the Scenic Santa Ritas in late 1996.
Their main focus in 1996 was “stopping the ASARCO/Forest Service land exchange in the Rosemont Valley of the Santa Ritas, and preventing an open pit copper mine there.”
They are “tracking this proposal in addition to new mining and mineral exploration proposals in the Patagonia Mountains, including the Canelo Hills and San Rafael Valley. Our short term goal is to prevent any mining from occurring in these areas,” according to the group.