Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

MEDIA ADVISORY: February 25, 2003
CONTACT: Brian Segee, Southwest Public Lands Director (520) 623-5252 x308

More Information: Ray Mine Land Exchange


Federal Judge Roslyn Silver will hear arguments today in litigation brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and Western Land Exchange Project against the proposed Ray land exchange between the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) and mining giant ASARCO. The Ray exchange would trade 10,976 acres of publicly-owned land for 7,300 acres of land owned by ASARCO, and is intended to facilitate the expansion of ASARCO’s open-pit Ray copper mine approximately 60 miles east of Phoenix.

WHEN: Tuesday, February 25, 2003. 1:30 pm

WHERE: Federal Courthouse. 401 West Washington. Southwest Corner of 4th Avenue and Washington. Judge Silver’s courtroom.

Located on Mineral Creek, a tributary of the Gila River, the Ray Mine has been an open-pit operation since 1948. Environmental contamination at Ray has been so severe that in 1996 the Environmental Protection Agency and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality sued Asarco for repeated violations of the Clean Water Act. In 1997, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found copper levels in fish below the mine to be “by far” the highest recorded nationally. The company’s groundwater pumping at the site has reduced flows in Mineral Creek and the Gila and San Pedro Rivers, imperiling endangered species including and Southwestern willow flycatcher and spikedace, a small, stream-dwelling fish endemic to the Gila River system of Arizona and New Mexico.

Federal land trades are supposed to serve the public, but are often driven by private interests seeking access to federal land and resources. By gaining private ownership of the land used to expend the mine, Asarco would no longer be subject to federal planning, reclamation, and bonding requirements designed to reduce the environmental impacts of hard-rock mining operations.

The land to be given to Asarco directly borders the isolated White Canyon wilderness area, which encompasses approximately 5,800 acres in the Mineral and Teapot Mountains, contains perennial waters and riparian deciduous forest, and is considered a priority reintroduction site for bighorn sheep. Expanded mining operations would be clearly visible and audible from much of the Wilderness.


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