For Immediate Release, May 22, 2014
Contact: Randy Serraglio, (520) 784-1504
Federal Wildlife Agency Withdraws Approval of Arizona's Rosemont Mine
Decision Will Substantially Delay, and Possibly Stop, Controversial Project
TUCSON, Ariz.— Amid new concerns about endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has withdrawn its earlier approval of the proposed open-pit Rosemont copper mine in southern Arizona and now says it will have to reexamine the mine’s probable impacts on endangered jaguar, ocelot and several other protected species. The decision is the second serious blow to the controversial project in recent days: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently announced that the mining company’s plan to attempt to mitigate the proposed mine’s extensive environmental damage does not do enough to protect springs, streams, and wetlands.
“The Army Corps already decided that Rosemont’s mitigation plan falls woefully short of compensating for the damage it would do, and now the Fish and Wildlife Service is indicating that the mine’s impacts could be worse than it feared,” said Randy Serraglio with the Center the Biological Diversity. “Taken together, these decisions are a one-two punch that could be a knockout.”
In a letter to the Coronado National Forest, which manages thousands of acres of public lands in the Santa Rita Mountains that would be destroyed by the mine, the Fish and Wildlife Service cited several reasons for reworking its earlier biological opinion that the mine would not jeopardize the recovery of the area’s protected species, including the discovery of an ocelot photographed recently by remote sensor cameras in the Rosemont project area.
“The appearance of an ocelot in the Rosemont area is exciting news, but not surprising,” Serraglio said. “Considering the presence of a breeding population just 30 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border and the detection of other ocelots in nearby mountain ranges in the United States, it was really only a matter of time.”
“Arizona was wrongly excluded from the ocelot recovery plan two decades ago,” Serraglio said, “but now these rare, beautiful cats are sending us a loud-and-clear message: They belong here and can thrive here again if we protect the places where they live.”
Among other concerns, the Service’s decision also cites new information on the potential damage the Rosemont mine would do to surface stream flows that depend on groundwater that would be dramatically depleted by the mine’s massive pumping. That damage would threaten several protected species, including the Chiricahua leopard frog and two endangered fish, Gila topminnow and Gila chub.
“Aquatic species like endangered fish and frogs will have nowhere to go when Rosemont siphons away the water they need to survive,” Serraglio said. “These animals are the canaries in the copper mine, warning us of the potential catastrophe that looms over the spectacular diversity of wildlife in the Rosemont area and the people that live nearby.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.