Copper Mine near Tucson dealt a blow

But the Canadian company gets a win for its other, nearby operation at Copper World.


The view from Arizona scenic state Highway 83, with the eastern slope of the Santa Rita Mountains in the background. An appeals court has overturned a 2019 decision by the Trump administration to allow a copper mine here.
Anita Snow / AP
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Six years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers denied Hudbay Minerals Inc., a Canadian mining corporation, a permit for a potentially mile-wide copper mine in Rosemont, Arizona, southeast of Tucson. The agency cited the potential for extreme damage to jaguar habitat, heavy metal pollution in water systems, and the desecration of the cultural sites of Indigenous nations as reasons to not dig what opponents call “the Rosemont pit.”

Then, in 2019, the Trump administration reversed the decision and gave the company the go-ahead. A coalition of Indigenous nations, who had fought the proposal for years alongside local and regional environmental organizations, responded with a lawsuit. Despite this, for the next three years, the company charged ahead with its plans anyway (“Trump administration rubber stamps copper mine,” April 2019).

This May, in a win for mine opponents, a federal appellate judge upheld a decision to halt the Rosemont mine, largely due to the company’s plans to dump waste rock and tailings into the nearby Coronado National Forest, one of southern Arizona’s biologically diverse “sky islands.” 

Meanwhile, Copper World project, another mine that Hudbay wants to develop just west of Rosemont on a privately owned parcel of land, has faced similar pushback from environmental organizations and Indigenous nations, who argue, in part, that the mine would violate the Clean Water Act by impacting ephemeral streams. But just two weeks after the appellate judge’s Rosemont decision, a federal judge sided with Hudbay on the nearby Copper World, allowing the company to continue its exploratory drilling.

“It’s a mixed outcome,” said Stu Williams, the executive director of Save The Scenic Santa Ritas, an environmental advocacy organization. “We think (the) decision to proceed with no permitting is an abomination and gross misinterpretation of the Clean Water Act."

Theo Whitcomb is an editorial intern at High Country News. Email him a [email protected] or submit a letter to the editorSee our letters to the editor policy.

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