Lawsuit Filed to Stop Open-Pit Copper Mine

November 28, 2017

TUCSON, Ariz. – A coalition of conservation groups is suing the U.S. Forest Service over its approval of an open-pit copper mine 30 miles outside of Tucson.

The groups contend that the Forest Service violated the Clean Water Act and other state and federal laws when it approved the Rosemont mine in the Santa Rita Mountains last summer.

Managing attorney Roger Flynn is with the Western Mining Action Project, a nonprofit public-interest law firm representing the plaintiffs. He says the mine would have to pump the groundwater out for decades to keep the copper pit dry – and use 30 billion gallons of water over the long term. grview-60436-1

“The groundwater table for miles and miles around will be depleted and a number of critical streams and springs will go dry,” he warns. “That’s the prediction; the water will be eliminated.”

That includes waters in the congressionally-designated Las Cienegas National Conservation Area and Davidson Canyon, which replenish the groundwater basins that serve Tucson. The proposed 5,000-acre mine project is on hold right now, waiting for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to decide whether to grant a permit.

The mine would have a lifespan of 30 years, at which point the mile-wide, 1,200-foot-deep pit would be allowed to fill and form a lake that Flynn says would be severely polluted.

“And even the Forest Service admits that the water quality in that pit is going to violate a number of water-quality protective standards for cadmium, zinc and other toxic metals,” he adds.

The plaintiffs in the suit include the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, a group called Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, and the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service – AZ
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