Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 25, 2017

Contact: Marc Fink, (218) 464-0539,

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Rare Jaguar From Rosemont Copper Mine in Arizona

Endangered Ocelots, Other Species Also at Risk

TUCSON, Ariz.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit today in U.S. District Court to challenge a controversial open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains of southern Arizona that would destroy prime jaguar habitat. The lawsuit challenges the “biological opinion” prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which led to the approval of the Rosemont Mine by the U.S. Forest Service in June.

“The Rosemont Mine would turn thousands of acres of the Coronado National Forest into a wasteland,” said Marc Fink, a senior attorney with the Center. “Even though the agencies found it would permanently damage endangered species and precious groundwater resources, they’re letting the mine proceed. Wildlife officials should be focused on jaguar recovery, not green-lighting a massive mine that will destroy the animals’ habitat and suck the Santa Ritas dry.”

The mine's footprint lies squarely in jaguar critical habitat, land that's been scientifically determined to be critically important for the survival and recovery of jaguars in the United States. The mine would destroy much of the home territory of the famous jaguar El Jefe, who was photographed more than 100 times in the Santa Ritas over three years. The area includes a critically important corridor that allows jaguars to move between southern Arizona and Mexico.

The mine, as approved by the Forest Service, would include a 955-acre open pit and turn 3,653 acres of the Coronado National Forest into a dumping site for more than a billion tons of waste rock and tailings facilities. A permanent fence around the mine site would create an impenetrable barrier to wildlife. 

In addition to harming jaguars and the endangered ocelot, the Rosemont Mine would severely degrade habitat for more than a dozen endangered species, including the Gila chub and Chiricahua leopard frog. The 3,000-foot deep pit would convert the mine site into a permanent sink, drying wetlands and potentially drying up much of Cienega Creek. The Cienega Creek watershed provides up to 20 percent of the annual natural recharge in Tucson's groundwater basin, a vital resource that could be polluted and significantly diminished by the mine.

“The mine is so destructive it would permanently reverse the natural direction of groundwater flow,” Fink said. “It would degrade sensitive habitat in areas that should be set aside for the protection of endangered species, including the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area and the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve.”

The Cienega Creek watershed provides some of the highest-quality stream and wetland ecosystems in southern Arizona. Mine construction would destroy approximately 18 miles of streams and cause the permanent drawdown of groundwater that sustains hundreds of acres of springs, seeps, streams and wetlands. 

The mine would use 100,000 acre-feet of fresh water — the equivalent of 100,000 football fields covered in one foot of water — over the life of the mine. Groundwater would be pumped from wells in the Santa Cruz Valley, which could reduce water supply for the communities of Sahuarita and Green Valley, Ariz. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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