ARIZONA NEWS

Feds deal another setback to Arizona copper mine by upholding jaguar habitat

Sep 6, 2021, 5:00 AM
An endangered jaguar captured by a remote camera in southeastern Arizona. Advocates - and now a cou...
An endangered jaguar captured by a remote camera in southeastern Arizona. Advocates - and now a court - say it is one of several endangered species that could be harmed by the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine. (Photo courted Conservation CATalyst and Center for Biological Diversity)
(Photo courted Conservation CATalyst and Center for Biological Diversity)

WASHINGTON – Federal regulators on Friday rejected a mining company’s request to reduce critical habitat for endangered jaguars in the Santa Rita Mountains on land that overlaps the footprint of the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine.

The decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the latest setback for Hudbay Minerals Inc., which has been working for more than a decade to get permission to open the mine that it says could create thousands of jobs and bring billions in economic development to the region.

But opponents welcomed the decision, saying the mine threatens not just the jaguar but the area’s drinking water supply.

“The people of Tucson have shown very clearly that they value jaguars and their water security more than they value this foreign company coming in here to put an open-pit copper mine in our mountains,” said Randy Serraglio, the Southwest conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity.

In an emailed statement Friday, a Hudbay representative said the Canadian-based mining company is reviewing the Fish and Wildlife decision, but that it “remains committed to the development of the Rosemont Project.”

Hudbay claims that the mine would lead to the creation of 500 jobs directly related to the project and another 2,700 indirectly related, spinning off $48 million a year in state and local taxes and generating $1.4 billion a year in economic activity for the region.

The company also claims on its website that the proposed Rosemont mine has been the subject of more than 1,000 studies by 17 federal, state and local agencies over 11 years, and insists it will operate an “unprecedented environmental mitigation program” at the site.

But Hudbay argued that the government did not need to set aside all of the 764,207 acres that have been identified as critical jaguar habitat in Pima, Cochise and Santa Cruz counties in Arizona and Hidalgo County in New Mexico.

It petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the designation from 50,000 acres in the northern Santa Rita Mountains and adjacent areas, which include the site of the planned mine. There was no evidence that jaguars inhabited the target areas, which were not needed for the animals to come and go from their range in Mexico, it argued.

That argument was rejected Friday by the government. It said the company had failed to show that the 50,000 acres were not needed to protect endangered jaguars, once thought to have disappeared from the United States, or that the land was not needed to protect jaguar travel.

“Removal of the northern Santa Rita Mountains would withdraw areas that currently provide the physical and biological features of jaguar critical habitat, and in which confirmed jaguar detections occurred in 2012 and 2015,” the decision said.

It added that the company’s proposal would have “eliminated half of the available connections to Mexico” without explaining in its application why that land was no longer necessary to the species’ survival.

“(The) Fish and Wildlife Service correctly concluded that there was no substantial scientific information submitted to justify such a revision,” Serraglio said.

He said the endangered jaguar is not the only thing threatened by the mine, calling the project a “major contamination threat because they want to put these huge tailings piles, they want to dump all their toxic waste at the top of the watershed.”

“That then recharges Tucson’s aquifers, which is a very foolish thing in these days of droughts being declared on the Colorado River, and water shortages all over the place,” he said.

The company claims on its website that it will treat all its water on-site and that modern mining methods will allow it to use half the water of other operations. It said it has also stored 45,000 acre feet of water ahead of operations.

Serraglio said that multiple companies have attempted to mine in the area, but have not been able to do so successfully. And he said opponents of Rosemont, including his organization, are “committed to preventing them from destroying the Santa Rita Mountains.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(AP Photo/Marta Lavandier, File)...
KTAR.com

Phoenix metro sets record with workforce of 2.3 million at end of 2021

The Phoenix metro area had a record number of workers at the end of 2021, the city said in a Wednesday press release.
4 hours ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Arizona utility regulators reject new renewable energy rules for the second time in a year

Arizona's utility regulators have rejected new rules that would have drastically boosted the use of renewable energy for the second time in a year, drawing sharp reaction from clean energy advocates who said the decision leaves the state far behind what is needed to address climate change.
4 hours ago
David Whitaker (Pinal County Sheriff's Office Photo)...
KTAR.com

Arizona sex offender who hid in desert for 107 days sentenced to 25 years behind bars

A 42-year-old man who was accused of sexual contact with a minor and hid for more than 107 days in the desert before being arrested has been sentenced to 25 years in prison, authorities said.
1 day ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Arizona Senate panel OKs working poor tax credit backed by Democrats, Gov. Ducey

A Democratic proposal to create a new tax credit for working low-income Arizonans that Republican Gov. Doug Ducey adopted as part of his budget proposal was approved by an Arizona Senate committee Wednesday.
1 day ago
FILE - This Aug. 19, 2010, file photo shows then-Arizona Corrections Director Charles Ryan at a new...
Associated Press

Former Arizona prisons director had tequila in system before standoff, police say

Former Arizona Corrections Director Charles Ryan had already consumed a half bottle of tequila by the time officers responded to a call nearly three weeks ago at his Tempe home that he had shot himself, according to police reports released Wednesday that offer a new theory on how the former prisons boss was injured.
1 day ago
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Jeff Flake, the new U.S. ambassador to Turkey, p...
Associated Press

Ex-US Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona begins post as ambassador to Turkey

Former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona formally stepped into his new position as U.S. ambassador to Turkey on Wednesday.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Arizona State University

Gain insights on next year’s trends at 58th Annual Economic Forecast Luncheon

Employment is recovering from the severe contraction induced by the pandemic, but it is still way below levels at the start of 2020. Can it fully recover in the coming year?
(Facebook Photo/NHTSA)...
Sweet James

Upcoming holiday season is peak time for DUI arrests

The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the most dangerous time of the year to be driving. That’s why it’s important to remember to call Sweet James Accident Attorneys if you’re injured or arrested because of a DUI accident.
...
PNC BANK

How your family can explore the Musical Instrument Museum

Whether you want to spend a day with family, do crafts with kids at home, or have an adult night out, the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix has options. As the world’s only global musical instrument museum, MIM offers interactive and immersive exhibits to foster an appreciation of different cultures and their instruments. “A visit […]
Feds deal another setback to Arizona copper mine by upholding jaguar habitat