MEDIA ADVISORY: February 25, 2003
FEDERAL JUDGE TO HEAR ARGUMENTS TODAY IN LITIGATION AGAINST PROPOSED BLM/ASARCO 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 ASARCOs 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 Silvers 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 companys 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.