Air quality ruling a setback for proposed mine south of Tucson

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Rosemont Copper suffers a setback in their quest to build a controversial mine south of Tucson.

Pima County's Air Quality Control district dealt the blow, by denying their air quality permit application.

Mine opponents were celebrating Thursday night, but Rosemont Copper says it's ready to fight the county.

"This will not stop the project.  The project will continue to go on.  It will not be delayed," said Rosemont Copper CEO Rod Pace.

Pace says this is just another roadblock put up by Pima County.

"Dealing with the county has been frustrating from day one.  This is just one more step with the Pima County anti-business friendly gesture toward businesses," said Pace.

Earlier Thursday, Rosemont Copper received a letter from the county.   It says the company failed to provide information that would show it could comply with both federal and state air regulations.

So the county claims it had no choice.

"We denied the current application," said Ursula Kramer from the Department of Environmental Quality.

Pace thinks the county did that for political reasons.  He says the proposed mine follows all rules and regulations.

"We think it's a reaciton to a lawsuit we filed against Pima County in the first of September," said Pace.

The county's decision is detailed in 5 pages of documents, and Thursday they responded to Pace with this, "We make our decisions based on the law and the facts."

Meanwhile mine opponents are celebrating, praising the county for its decision.

But Rosemont Copper says the only thing the county is standing in front of is economic development.

"It will create 2100 new jobs, ask them if it's worth the trouble. I think it is," said Pace.

"We recoginze these are tough economic times, we've heard that a lot, but for us as a department it's important that we make sure the enviormental rules are complied with, to make sure air is healthy for everyone to breathe," said Kramer.

For now mine opponents are breathing a sigh of relief.

Rosemont Copper can appeal the decision within 30 days, but the company says it doesn't plan to appeal.  Instead, they plan to follow through with a lawsuit filed earlier this year. 

They say they expect to start mining by the second quarter of 2012.