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

(Twitter photo/@dougducey)...

Arizona veterans organization to host Pearl Harbor Remembrance ceremony Tuesday

An Arizona veterans organization on Tuesday will honor the 80th anniversary of the deadly attacks at Pearl Harbor with a remembrance ceremony at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in downtown Phoenix.
22 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Lucid Motors)...
Associated Press

Lucid Group, electric vehicle builder in Arizona, sees shares slide after SEC subpoena disclosure

Shares in the electric vehicle startup Lucid Group, which builds electric vehicles at a factory in Casa Grande, tumbled Monday after saying that said it had been subpoenaed by government regulators, apparently over the process by which it became a publicly-traded company last summer.
22 hours ago
16 x 9 The Pick...
Kevin Stone

Another The Pick lottery jackpot ticket sold at a West Valley Walmart

For the second time in less than two weeks, somebody who bought a lottery ticket at a West Valley Walmart is grinning after hitting The Pick jackpot.
22 hours ago
(Heidi's Village and Arizona Humane Society Photos)...
Kevin Stone

Several Phoenix-area shelters waive or reduce pet adoption fees for holidays

Several metro Phoenix animal shelters are offering free or reduced-price adoptions for a limited time as part of the Bissell Pet Foundation’s Empty the Shelters Holiday Hope Event.
22 hours ago
(Phoenix Police Department Facebook Photo)...

1 man dead, another in critical condition following shooting in Phoenix

One man died and another was in critical condition following a shooting in Phoenix on Sunday evening, authorities said.
22 hours ago
A woman identified as Lilly Beeler is wanted by authorities in northern Arizona for allegedly shoot...
Kevin Stone

Woman allegedly robbed man at gunpoint in Arizona after they met on Instagram

Authorities in northern Arizona are searching for a woman who allegedly shot at a man and robbed him after they met through a social media site.
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Sanderson Ford

Sanderson Ford offers cars and deals for all this holiday season

Sanderson Ford’s No! Vember Black Friday sale is giving an opportunity to purchase a new 2021 vehicle just in time for the holiday season.
(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.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Why fall maintenance is important for your heating system and A/C

It’s easy to ignore your heater and air conditioner when they’re working but the moment something breaks, you will likely regret not keeping up with maintenance. After all, if something goes wrong, you may be stuck with a repair that will take longer and be more expensive than simple maintenance.
Feds deal another setback to Arizona copper mine by upholding jaguar habitat