Pima County and Chamber of Commerce clash of copper mine

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- It's Pima County up against Tucson's Business Community. This week the city's chamber of commerce told the county to back off in its involvement with the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine. But the county says it's not doing anything wrong.

"They're now kind of inventing their own rules as to how they want the approval process to go," said Richard Elias from the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

"They throw some clever cliches out there with misinformation and expect people to really believe it," said Mike Varney with the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

It's a battle of words, between the Tucson Chamber of Commerce, and Pima County. 

A couple weeks ago the county denied Rosemont Copper its air quality permit.

"They failed to give us enough information to issue that permit," said Elias.

But this week, Tucson's business community stepped in, saying since the U.S. Forest Service will have the final say on the proposed mine, the county needs to back down.

"The only other thing left for Pima County to do, if it cant lead, it's not following, is to get out of the way," said Varney.

Fueling the battle is the recent release of the mine's draft environmental impact statement.

It raises concerns about harmful effects to air quality, groundwater, plants and animals, even an increased glow in the sky, which could impact local astronomy research.

"Surely they don't expect us to be a rubber stamp for environmental degradation," said Elias.

But the Chamber of Commerce says the mine will operate under all environmental regulations. They say instead we should focus on the $9 billion it could bring to the community over the next 20 years.

"We're in a recession. We need new jobs.  We need good paying jobs," said Varney.

"Frankly, I think they're going to create more than $9 billion dollars worth of health bills," said Elias.

The county says its not anti-business, just in search of clean jobs. The chamber says the Rosemont Mine can provide up to 400 of those jobs.  Who's right remains up in the air.

Beginning October 22, the U.S. Forest Service will hold a series of meetings to hear comments from the public about the project's environmental impact statement.