Native American tribes and environmental groups are fighting to stop a Canadian firm from opening a copper mine in southeastern Arizona, arguing it could desecrate sacred, ancestral lands and pollute the air and water.
The $1.9 billion Rosemont Mine, at a half-mile deep and a mile wide, would sprawl across federal, state and private land, leaving a waste pile the height of skyscraper. Opponents o say they worry the project will dry up wells and waterways while ravaging habitat for endangered jaguar and other species. They have asked a federal judge in Tucson for an emergency order to prevent the project from proceeding while the merits of their lawsuits against Hudbay Minerals Inc. of Toronto are decided.
Preliminary work is set to start this summer. Supporters say the project will immediately create 500 jobs and pour $16 billion into the local economy.
The fight comes amid a larger battle across the West over using public lands for mining.
The Trump administration in late 2017 slashed about 85% of Utah’s Bear Ears National Monument to allow for mining claims. New Mexico tribal leaders have pressured U.S. officials to ban oil and gas exploration near the remnants of an ancient Pueblo civilization at Chaco Culture National Historical Park. And conservationists fret over plans to reopen a gold mine in California’s Castle Mountains National Monument, home to ancient rock art and a Joshua tree forest.
“You could go to virtually every state and find a push by big corporations to grab resources before it’s too late,” said Richard White, a historian of the American West at Stanford University.