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For Immediate Release, July 23, 2012

Contact:  Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681

Rare Arizona Snail One Step Closer to Endangered Species Act Protection

Sonoran Talussnail Yet Another Species Threatened by Proposed Rosemont Copper Mine

TUCSON, Ariz.— Southern Arizona’s Sonoran talussnail moved closer to Endangered Species Act protection today as part of a 2011 landmark legal settlement by the Center for Biological Diversity to speed protection decisions for 757 species around the country. Today’s positive “90-day finding” from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service kicks off a one-year review of the snails’ status to determine if it qualifies for federal protection. The Sonoran talussnail is found in the footprint of the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine near Tucson. If protected, it would become one of at least 10 endangered animals and plants threatened by the proposed mine, which will impact more than 145,000 acres of wildlife habitat.

“The Sonoran talussnail is yet another reason why the Rosemont Copper Mine shouldn’t be built. We’re thrilled that this fragile Arizona species is moving toward the Endangered Species Act protection that will save it from this disastrous mining project,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist with the Center.

The Center is working to protect more than a dozen imperiled species threatened by the mine. Last month the Center filed a lawsuit to gain Endangered Species Act protection for Coleman’s coralroot, a beautiful purple orchid growing on national forest land in the mine footprint. In 2010, the Center petitioned to protect the Rosemont talussnail and the Sonoran talussnail. The Rosemont talussnail is now on the candidate list for protections. Two additional rare plants threatened by the mine — Bartram stonecrop and beardless chinchweed — will get “90-day findings” by the end of the year as the result of the Center’s settlement with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

“The costs to endangered species, air quality and water supplies that would result from the Rosemont Mine are simply unacceptable. You can’t kill endangered species, produce 1,200 million tons of toxic waste and withdraw 33 billion gallons of water and claim to be a green company. There is simply no such thing as a sustainable mile-wide open pit copper mine,” said Curry.

The mine would destroy habitat for numerous endangered species including the Chiricahua leopard frog, Gila chub, Gila topminnow, Huachuca water umbel, jaguar, lesser long-nosed bat, ocelot, Pima pineapple cactus and southwestern willow flycatcher, and for candidate species including the desert tortoise, northern Mexican garter snake and western yellow-billed cuckoo.

“The diversity of the Rosemont area is significant on a global scale. The mine would be a disaster for hundreds of wildlife species and for quality of life for people around Tucson due to air, noise and water pollution and to loss of tourism and recreation dollars,” said Curry.

The mine still needs several permits to move forward, including an air-quality permit from Pima County that has already been denied once, and a Clean Water Act permit from the Army Corps of Engineers that is pending. The Coronado National Forest released a draft “environmental impact statement” for the mine in September, which has been severely criticized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as wholly inadequate and based on faulty science. In an extremely rare move, the EPA gave the impact statement the lowest possible rating and threatened to intervene if permitting for the mine proceeds.

Some of the most contentious issues surrounding the mine include impacts on drinking-water supplies. Concerns include impacts on existing wells in the area; plans to fill more than 150 stream drainages on the mine site; and a plan, yet untested in dry climates, to dry-stack waste tailings, a technique that critics fear will result in toxic pollutants leaching into groundwater during heavy rain events.  

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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