from SC Sun
SILVER CITY — The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act for its approval of a controversial open pit copper mine in the heart of the home territory of El Jefe, America’s only known jaguar. The agency issued a formal biological opinion in April that would allow the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine in southern Arizona to harm or kill El Jefe and destroy his home, despite the fact that it’s located in protected “critical habitat” on public land that’s essential to the recovery of jaguars in the United States.
“If we want jaguars like El Jefe to roam wild again in the mountains of the American Southwest, we must protect places like Rosemont,” said Randy Serraglio, conservation advocate with the center. “Rosemont is not only prime jaguar habitat — as El Jefe proved by living there the past few years — it’s also a critically important movement corridor for all jaguars that attempt to return to ancestral territories in the U.S.”
The Rosemont mine would create a mile-wide, 3,000-foot-deep open pit in El Jefe’s home territory and bury thousands of acres of surrounding public land with more than a billion tons of toxic mine waste. The mine would also pump a vast amount of groundwater, which threatens to dry up springs and creeks in the area that are critically important to jaguars and several other protected species. In draft biological opinions, Fish and Wildlife’s own scientists concluded that the mine should not be permitted, but the agency ignored their findings in issuing its approval.
“The Rosemont mine would be a fatal blow for an array of plants and animals already teetering on the brink of extinction,” said Serraglio. “Jaguars can’t survive without water and neither can the endangered fish and frogs living in the area’s creeks and springs. The fact is, there’s no way they’ll be able to escape Rosemont’s destruction.”
Independent studies have shown that the Rosemont mine will likely do far more damage to southern Arizona’s dwindling water sources than was originally claimed, and there’s no guarantee the company’s mitigation plan will offer any benefits at all.
“With a glut of copper on the global market and the industry in a free fall, there’s no rational argument for this mine,” said Serraglio. “We’re long past the bad old days of trading short-term economic benefits for permanent environmental destruction. In the 21st century, southern Arizona’s economy is driven by scenic vistas, outdoor recreation, and the thrill of visiting places where jaguars and an amazing diversity of other plants and animals live.”