1872 Mining Law Backs US Forest Service Into Corner, Again

On Thursday, Augusta Resources — the backer of the widely opposed Rosemont Mine in southern Arizona — announced it has received a key permit from the Coronado National Forest needed to build the mile wide, half mile deep open pit copper mine southeast of Tucson. 

Despite grave concerns about the mine proposal, the Forest Service is essentially mandated by the 1872 Mining Law to grant the permit. The Mining Law declares hardrock mining to be the highest and best use of most federal lands. 

Due to the Mining Law, the Forest Service permitted Rosemont even though

  • The mine would use nearly 2 billion gallons of water per year and substantially lower regional groundwater levels to the detriment of Las Cienegas National Conservation Area and Cienega Creek Natural Preserve
  • Local landowners will face ever-depleting water well levels and may be forced to haul water.
  • Real estate values may plummet, and
  • Rare jaguar have been spotted at the mine site.

This archaic law, which governs hardrock mining (e.g. gold, copper, silver, uranium) the same way since 1872, continues to divide communities while placing corporate interests (in this case foreign interests) above everything else.  Democracy doesn't apply. 

For years, people who live near the mine's footprint have been telling the Forest Service to deny the permit. Biologists and even other agencies have cried out about the impacts, yet it makes no difference.  Forest Service staff — many of whom may be opposed to the project — are shackled by the law, unable to protect the land and people who live on it.

But it's not a done deal yet; the US Environmental Protection Agency has the ability to deny the mine's Clean Water Act permit, and isn't necessarily bound by the Mining Law.  Fortunately, they've already indicated they may do so.  

Take action: tell your Representatives to reform the 1872 Mining Law and save folks from being bullied into a corner by this ridiculously antiquated law.