Environmental Groups Sue To Stop Open-Pit Copper Mine In Arizona

By Claire Caulfield
Associated Press
Published: Thursday, March 28, 2019 - 9:29am
Updated: Thursday, March 28, 2019 - 11:40am

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Santa Rita Mountains
AZPM/Mark Duggan
The Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson

Environmental groups on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit aimed at overturning a key permit for a proposed open-pit copper mine in southern Arizona.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona challenges a clean water permit issued for the Rosemont Copper Mine in the Santa Rita Mountains near Tucson, according to a copy of the document provided by the environmental groups Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition and the Arizona Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club.

They say the mine would threaten water resources and wildlife habitat.

"We have no choice but to seek justice in federal court in support of our community, our health and our environment," said Gayle Hartmann, president of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas.

Sandy Bahr, of the Sierra Club, said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not consider the degree or scope of possible harm the mine could cause to wildlife and protected lands.

The groups maintain the mine would drain a local aquifer supporting springs and streams that are home to endangered fish, frogs, snakes, birds and plants and would destroy critical habitat for the federally protected jaguar.

Thomas J. "Jay" Field, a Los Angeles-based spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, said Wednesday that the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Hudbay Minerals Inc. of Toronto announced last week that the mine had cleared the final step needed from the U.S. Forest Service.

A request for comment from Hudbay was not immediately returned.

The company's director of environment said in a statement last week that the plan for the mine was designed with environmental and other laws in mind, and approval of the water permit showed the firm had met government requirements.

The water permit the environmentalists are challenging was issued March 8 by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Hudbay has said the mine will create 500 jobs after $1.9 billion in construction spending.

Environmentalists have opposed the project for more than 12 years.

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