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Ariz. agency taking charge of mine permit issue

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona's environmental protection agency has agreed to a mining company's request to take over air-quality permitting for a proposed new open pit mine and also is proposing to approve the requested permit.

Rosemont Copper Co. had asked the state Department of Environmental Quality last year to take over permitting for the Rosemont Mine, which would be located 30 miles southeast of Tucson.

Supporters of the project tout its potential to create jobs, while critics cite environmental concerns.

Under its decision announced Friday to take over permitting, the DEQ is taking control away from Pima County. The state agency said its actions provide "regulatory certainty" for the project.

The agency cited a judge's July 5 ruling that the county's initial denial of a permit was "arbitrary and capricious." The judge didn't order the county to issue a permit, but did order it to take more information from the company on what legal requirements Rosemont Copper must meet.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry told The Arizona Daily Star (http://bit.ly/Mp6qoW ) that shortcomings in Rosemont's application caused any uncertainty that resulted in delays.

Huckelberry also said the state is now rushing consideration of the permitting by opening a public comment period within days of posting a notice about its decision on taking over the permitting process.

The DEQ said it will hold public hearings in September and October and decide on a permit by mid-February.

The state's proposed permit contains several measures stricter than the county originally proposed in 2011, DEQ Director Henry Darwin wrote. Those measures will ensure the mine's emissions meet federal, state and local requirements, he wrote to Ursula Kramer, director of the County Department of Environmental Quality.

Rosemont Copper President Rod Pace said DEQ's action "makes a strong statement to other businesses looking to come to Arizona that the state is business friendly and looking for good corporate partners to generate revenue, provide good wages and put people to work."

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Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com

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