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Chamber concerned by threat

San Pedro Valley News-Sun of Benson, Arizona

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Rosemont mine opponent calls for Benson business boycott

Bob Mucci, executive director of the Benson/San Pedro Valley Chamber of Commerce, said he hopes a group opposing the reopening of the Rosemont Copper Mine doesn't follow through with a threat to boycott local businesses.

The threat came last week after the Benson City Council voted unanimously to support the Rosemont Copper Mine.

Augusta Resources, a company -based on Canada, is going through the environmental impact phase with the U.S. Forest Service to open a copper mine off State Route 83 in the Santa Rita Mountains, about 30 miles west of Benson.

Mine representatives are promising big economic returns to all of Southern Arizona. The group estimates an added $19 million to the state's revenues. . The economic benefit was the main reason the City Council voted to support the venture.

But the Save the Scenic Santa Ritas organization is against the mine's opening, claiming it will do more harm than good to the environment and the state's tourism industry.

Following the council's vote to support the mine, Elizabeth Webb, a Vail resident, sent an email titled "boycott Benson" to the chamber of commerce and notified Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll, who has been against the mine.

"This has already had a ripple effect on Benson's economy shared with you today. While I understand that the Chamber typically will not take a stand on this. I was dismayed to see a City Council vote against the best interests of Arizona. The vote was made based on a previous presentation by Rosemont Copper to the Council," Webb said. "Fortunately, the environment of Southern Arizona is important to me, even if it is not directly in my back yard, and I will carefully explore and weigh all alternatives before choosing the one I feel is in the best interest of Southern Arizona. I hope you, as a competent business person, would see that the Benson City Council vote was not in the best interests of the Benson/San Pedro Valley and contact your Council to express your concerns, asking for reconsideration."

Mucci said the Chamber would not be taking a stance on the issue one way or the other, while noting that the Chamber had a right to support the project, just as Webb has a right to be angry about the decision.

"For areas that choose to continue protecting and preserving Arizona's precious water resources in unanimous opposition to the Rosemont Copper, thank you," Webb's email 'continued. "For areas whose economy depends on copper mining, I hope you will unanimously support operating existing copper mines at full capacity rather than laying off employees and witnessing new impacts to our national forests and water resources. Many of your communities have long standing cultural and economic ties to Vail, Sonoita, Helvetia and Pima and Santa Cruz counties. I am sure you recognize the importance of those."

Mucci said while he understands both sides of the issue, he hopes that a Benson business will not have to suffer for a decision made by the City Council.

Mucci said to his knowledge the council's decision has not caused any economic hardship on any local businesses.

Original Publication Date: June 9, 2010

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