Conservationists sue to stop mineral exploration in biologically diverse southern Arizona mountains

Jul 17, 2023, 6:00 PM

Mining quarry in Arizona...

Aerial view of Arizona Portland Cement division of the California Portland Cement Co. This limestone and shale quarry lies south of Twin Peaks Rd. in Avra Valley near the north end of the Tucson Mountains. Aerial support by LightHawk. (Photo by: Wild Horizon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

(Photo by: Wild Horizon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Conservation groups are suing to stop two mineral exploration projects in southern Arizona’s biologically diverse Patagonia Mountains.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Arizona Mining Reform Coalition and other groups want the U.S. District Court in Tucson to halt the exploration by Arizona Standard LLC, a subsidiary of a Canadian mineral exploration firm.

The lawsuit filed last month says the U.S. Forest Service didn’t adequately analyze how the exploration for copper and other minerals in the craggy mountains just north of the U.S.-Mexico border would have on public lands, water and endangered species like Mexican spotted owls, yellow billed cuckoos, jaguars and ocelots.

American Standard denied in a filing last week that the federal environmental guidelines had been violated.

The Patagonia Mountains are among southern Arizona’s dramatic and diverse “sky islands” that provide a key corridor for jaguars and ocelots roaming north from Mexico through a border wall gap to their range in the United States.

“Our priority must be to protect this critical habitat, which is the source of drinking water, clean air and the biological wealth that fuels our regional nature-based restorative economy,” said Carolyn Shafer, board president and mission coordinator of the Patagonia Area Resource Alliance.

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Conservationists sue to stop mineral exploration in biologically diverse southern Arizona mountains