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Tribes Fight Final Permitting, Due in August, for the Rosemont Copper Mine

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The Santa Rita Mountains are the target of a horrid ecological parasite, the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine, and the 11-year battle in which proponents of and opponents of this environmental disaster have seen some permitting for the mine argued in federal court in Washington, D.C. during August.

Hudbay Minerals, the mine's parent company, needs the Army Corps of Engineers to issue a Section 404 permit, which is named after a section of the Clean Water Act, for regulating the discharge of fill material into waterways. According to reports, this will most likely be the last hurdle of getting the mine up and running.

In the days of Trump, it's only natural speculation that the mine will be given the graced blessings of the U.S. government. However, while the decision is pending, at least three lawsuits are in the works that attack earlier permits issued for the Rosemont Copper Mine.

A group called Save the Scenic Santa Ritas has filed a lawsuit, along with another lawsuit filed by the Pascua Yaqui, the Tohono O'odham and the Hopi American Indian tribes, and another by the Center for Biological Diversity. These lawsuits will be starting court proceedings this fall. One thing that all these suits have in common is that they claim earlier reviews by the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service did not sufficiently consider the mine's undoubted impact on the land, water, and air around the mine. After mining begins, there will be a dire threat to fish and wildlife in the area. And people will be endangered, too, since things like groundwater, ground, and air quality will be drastically altered.

At least a dozen imperiled species live in the scenic, bucolic Santa Rita Mountains in the Sky Islands region outside Arizona. Copper mines use a lot of fresh water and contaminate the grounds and fresh water supply around these mines. If the Rosemont Copper Mine begins operations, voracious groundwater pumping would lower the regional aquifer and possibly even dry up Cienega Creek. The only known jaguar in the United States roams around the area where the mine is proposed, along with some ocelots. The devastation to these cats' habitats would surely kill them. Endangered fish like the Gila Club and the Gila Topminnow live in the water around this proposed mining site. Other endangered species calling this region home include: the Chiricahua Leopard Frog, the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, the Huachuca Water Umbel, the Mexican Garter Snake, and the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. Other native species like the beautiful orchid, the Coleman's Coralroot, which grows in the proposed mine's footprint, and two freshwater snails, the Rosemont and Sonoran Talus Snails, will have their very existence threatened if the water around the mine is depleted and/or polluted, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

"This land means a lot to us. The way we came about, we came from the land," said Joe Joququin, Tohono O'ohdam elder, in the short documentary video produced by the Tohono O'ohdam Nation, Ours is the Land.

"We've always considered water to be a sacred gift, because that is how we survived," Joququin said.

Michael Enis, Tohono O'ohdam storyteller, said that "This has been here since creation and hopefully, it is always going to be here. It's our job to preserve it and when we don't take care of that relationship, then we lose a relationship within ourselves. And we lose a part of ourselves," in Ours is the Land.

Edward Manuel, Tohono O'ohdam Nation Chairman, said, "We feel it is our responsibility as stewards of the land, as caretakers of the land, to ensure we protect the resources that are out there, especially our culture, our artifacts, our history out there. We have a lot of history in that area," in Ours is the Land.

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Samuel Vargo worked as a full-time reporter and editor for more than 20 years at a number of daily newspapers and business journals. He was also an adjunct English professor at colleges and universities in Ohio, West Virginia, Mississippi (more...)

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