Judge halts huge open-pit mine on sacred tribal lands in southern Arizona

PB200027.JPGHiking near Benson, Arizona, site of the proposed Rosemont mine

Some good green news for a change in southern Arizona, where Trump’s Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt, a former oil industry lobbyist and lawyer, has bent over backwards to help his mining and developer friends dig mines and build giant housing developments in sensitive ecological zones that are also sacred burial grounds for several tribes.

A federal judge blocked construction of a giant copper mine in Arizona’s Coronado National Forest, overturning a decision by the federal government and handing a major victory to environmental groups and tribes that have been fighting plans for the mine.

In early May I wrote about a Fish & Wildlife official who said higher-ups in the Department of Interior pressured him to reverse his agency’s decision to block a 70,000-person housing development that friends of Trump and Bernhardt wanted to build near the border, a giant stain on the desert that would kill the Southwest’s only remaining free-flowing river. That battle continues.

Related to that story, just up the road outside Tucson, Bernhardt is also pushing another environmental disaster: the 3rd largest open-pit mine in the nation, to be operated by Rosemont Copper, a company Bernhardt previously represented. Rachel Maddow recently exposed the cozy relationship between Bernhardt, Trump, and developers:

“We’re going to look back one day and be astonished at what they were doing. We will all want to answer about what we were doing and whether we were paying attention.”

Environmental groups and tribes are paying attention. Not only would the Rosemont mine de-water and otherwise destroy sensitive ecological zones that are home to jaguars and other endangered species, but several Arizona tribes, including the Hopi, Tohono O’odham, and Pascua Yaqui, consider the ancestral lands sacred burial sites.

“This is a victory for the Nation and all of Southern Arizona,” said Ned Norris Jr., Chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation. “The devastation that the Rosemont mine would bring to our land, water, and cultural resources is well-documented and cannot be allowed to happen. The Nation will continue to fight to ensure that our sacred lands and the region’s water are protected.”

Similar to the obscene housing development at the border, the US Forest Service, which should protect the land, not exploit it, relied on faulty history and inappropriate environmental studies in order to approve the mine. Federal District Judge James Soto saw through the administration’s shenanigans:

He said the agency implemented the wrong regulations, misinformed the public, and “failed to adequately consider reasonable alternatives.”

Sounds like every Trump agency, especially those charged with overseeing public lands. No doubt the administration will appeal the judge’s decision, but the delay is welcome news for lovers of the region’s cultural and natural heritage.

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