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Know the West

Weighing artifacts against gold

  The Bureau of Land Management has decided that a cyanide heap-leach gold mine in California near Yuma, Ariz., can't get under way for at least two years. The moratorium was hailed as a victory by opponents of Glamis Imperial Corp., who say the mine would ravage the habitat of threatened desert tortoises and infringe on a sacred Native American site.

The draft environmental impact statement issued before the moratorium says the proposed mine would "significantly impact" the more than 200 examples of rock geoglyphs in the area. "When you scratch the surface of geoglyphs (petroglyphs on the ground), it's like breaking glass in a church," says Lorey Cachora of the Quechan tribe's cultural committee. Glamis Corp. officials say they're not going away. "The tribe has been really successful developing agricultural areas and casinos on sacred land," says Glamis vice president Steve Bauman. "We're working diligently with them to ensure we give similar protection to artifacts."

BLM spokesman Glen Miller says the agency will study the cultural resources and complete a final EIS by late summer. Contact Miller at 1661 S. 4th St., El Centro, CA 92243 (760/337-4400), the Quechan Cultural Committee at 760/572-0213 or the San Diego office of the Sierra Club at 619/299-1746 to find out more.

* Taffeta Elliott and Juniper Davis