Three Arizona (U.S.) tribes file law suit to block Hudbay Mineral’s Rosemont Copper Mine
- Other Hudbay Minerals news: Read about March 30, 2018 assassination of Hector Choc, nephew of Angelica Choc who is a plaintiff in the Hudbay Minerals lawsuits in Canadian courts for Hudbay-linked mining repression in Guatemala. Indications are the people who killed Hector Choc were seeking to kill José Ich, son of Angélica Choc and himself a witness in the Hudbay lawsuits: https://mailchi.mp/rightsaction/assassination-of-hctor-manuel-choc-cuz-nephew-of-angelica-choc
(Hudbay’s proposed Rosemont Copper Mine, Santa Rita Mountains, Coronado National Forest)
The Tohono O’odham Nation, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and the Hopi Tribe sued the U.S. Forest Service in U.S. District Court on April 13 challenging the agency’s approval of a plan by Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals Inc. to build the $1.9 billion Rosemont Copper Mine on the Coronado National Forest southeast of Tucson.
The lawsuit alleges the mine would deprive tribal members of access to ancestral praying grounds, destroy a critical part of their heritage including burial grounds and stop members from engaging in important cultural practices and religious traditions, the Arizona Daily Star reported.
“The Rosemont Copper project would destroy cultural and archeological sites on our traditional lands, including the graves of our ancestors,” Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Edward D. Manuel said in a statement. “Consider what it would be like if a foreign company proposed excavating Arlington National Cemetery. All Americans treasure this cemetery, just like our tribes treasure the land this mine will desecrate.”
Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law firm based in San Francisco, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the three Arizona tribes. This is the third federal lawsuit seeking to stop the massive open-pit copper mine.
Last November, four conservation groups filed suit alleging the mine would violate nearly a dozen state and federal laws, threaten critical water resources and destroy Coronado National Forest land.
Two months earlier, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s issuance of a biological report that concluded the mine would not have a significant impact on endangered species including the jaguar.
Like one of the earlier suits, this one directly challenges the Forest Service’s continued assertion that it legally can’t say “no” to a mine under the 1872 Mining Act, the Daily Star reports. That view is a fundamental error that led to a “tainted process” illegally prejudicing Forest Service decision-making, and to a host of violations of other federal laws, contends Heidi McIntosh, an Earthjustice attorney.
“The Forest Service should have rejected Hudbay’s request to use these sacred lands as a dumping ground for toxic waste rock, mine tailings, and processing plants,” McIntosh said in a statement. “Instead, the Forest Service bowed to the mining company and then denied it had the authority to protect this uniquely important place. We’re asking the Court to right this injustice.”
The complaint alleges the Forest Service violated the Forest Service Organic Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act. The tribes are asking the Court to reverse the Forest Service’s decision approving the mine and prevent its construction.
Coronado National Forest Supervisor Kerwin Dewberry signed a document called a Record of Decision approving the mine last June. At that time, he stated he had no legal choice under the General Mining Act of 1872 and other federal laws requiring him to approve a mining plan that had the least negative impact on the environment. The Forest Service, he stated, had no legal right to select a “no action alternative”.
The Record of Decision states that Hudbay must still obtain a federal Clean Water Act permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as obtain final approval from the Forest Service of its Mine Plan of Operations and post a reclamation bond.
The Los Angeles District of the Army Corps of Engineers recommended denial of the Clean Water Act permit in July 2016, finding that the mine would have devastating impacts on aquatic resources and is contrary to the public interest. “Among the key public interest concerns,” the Corps stated in a Dec. 2016 letter to Hudbay Minerals, “are adverse effects to cultural resources and traditional cultural properties important to the tribes.”
The tribes’ lawsuit states the mile-wide, half-mile deep open pit that would dump waste rock and mine tailings on more than 2,500 acres of national forest “would be situated on public lands that have profound cultural and religious significance to the tribes” whose ancestors have used the land dating back 10,000 years.
“The proposed Rosemont Copper Mine would defile our heritage, and it also threatens our future. The mine would destroy lands, animals, and plants that have great spiritual significance to us,” Pascua Yaqui Tribe Chairman Robert Valencia said. “And, its impacts to our region’s groundwater resources poses a danger that will long outlast any mining operations.”
The mine, the lawsuit states, “would transform 3,653 acres of publicly-owned National Forest from its current natural state, with significant cultural sites, scenic rolling hills and wildlife like the endangered jaguar — a species with deep cultural and religious significance” into a “an industrial mining zone.”
Hopi Tribe Vice Chairman Clark W. Tenakhongva asked the Forest Service to abandon its 19th Century approach to managing the public lands in favor of mining interests and to the detriment of other cultural and environmental values.
“The Hopi Tribe continues to hope that someday a Forest Service supervisor’s decision will reflect the Forest Service’s listening to tribes regarding Sacred Sites and Traditional Cultural Properties, respect the natural water, wildlife, and night sky values of the tribes, and assist the Forest Service in emerging from the 19th century into the 21st,” Tenakhongva said.
Coronado National Forest Supervisory Dewberry declined to comment on the tribes’ lawsuit, the Daily Star reported. Hudbay Minerals, which proposed to build the country’s third largest copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson, didn’t respond to a request from the Daily Star to comment on the suit.
More information: Rosemont Mine Truth, http://www.rosemontminetruth.com/
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