(NOTE: This article is intended for subscribers to the Daily Star.)
Oral arguments for our case before the 9th Circuit Appeals Court were held on February 1, 2021. Because of COVID, the oral arguments were virtual, and we could listen in. You can watch the recording here.
We cannot predict when we will hear a decision, but we expect to have to wait several months.
Below is a recent timeline of events related to the case:
- Feds opening brief (filed June 15, 2020)
- Hudbay opening brief (filed June 22, 2020)
- Amicus briefs supporting Rosemont/Feds (filed June 29, 2020)
- Our answering brief (along with Tribes’) (filed September 11, 2020)
- Amicus briefs supporting our position (filed September 18, 2020)
- Feds optional reply brief (filed November 13, 2020)
- Hudbay optional reply brief (filed November 18, 2020)
- Oral arguments – held on February 1, 2021
What an eventful year this has been! But, let’s back up a bit to 2018.
In January 2018 a newspaper headline declared: “Rosemont Mine ready to build in ’19 if final permit goes through.” Of course, the “final permit” refers to the Clean Water Act 404 permit, which the Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of issuing. It took a while, but the permit was, indeed, issued in early March 2019.
By that time lawsuits, including ours, had been filed challenging the Forest Service for issuing its Record of Decision, which would allow the Rosemont Mine to proceed, pending the granting of the 404 permit. The organizations filing the suits were Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, joined by Sierra Club, Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, and Center for Biological Diversity. Separate suits were also filed by the Tohono O’odham Nation, Pascua Yaqui Tribe and the Hopi Tribe (impacts on cultural resources); and Center for Biological Diversity (impacts on endangered species).
For many months the news was full of Rosemont articles. These included articles discussing the need to fix the 1872 mining law and the impacts the mine would have on our water resources as well as several clever political cartoons, all expressing concern about the mine. Also, there were dozens of letters to the editor with headlines such as “Rosemont devastation is a sacrilege,” “Protect natural world, oppose Rosemont,” and “Jobs temporary, damage permanent.” Also, a few proclaimed the supposed positive side of Rosemont, for example “Rosemont jobs will bring a boost.”
In late March 2019 we (all the organizations and tribes mentioned above) filed another lawsuit to try to overturn the Army Corps’ issuance of the 404 permit. So, two lawsuits had now been filed with the goal of stopping the mine and – WE WAITED, knowing that Hudbay could begin mining activities any day. In fact, in June 2019 Hudbay began clearing all the vegetation from a 30-foot-wide swath along Santa Rita Road where they had intended to put their water pipe. The intent was for the pipe to go from the west side of the Santa Ritas, over the ridgeline, and to the east side of the mountain range. Fortunately, they only cleared about 4 ½ miles when, on July 31, Judge James Soto ruled that the mine could not proceed.
There have been a few minor perturbations since then, but the primary question now is whether Hudbay will appeal Judge Soto’s decision. They have until the end of December 2019 to file an appeal. So, WE ARE WAITING AGAIN.
But, for the moment, at least, the wind is at our back. It will still take some time – may be quite a bit of time — but we feel confident that eventually, we will prevail and this arduous battle will be over. There will be NO MINE. The beauty, biodiversity and cultural resources of the Santa Ritas will be preserved. In the bigger picture, the decision we got from Judge Soto has been widely reported both nationally and internationally. In addition, Congressman Grijalva is moving forward with a long-needed reexamination of the 1872 mining law, which allows foreign mining of American resources on public land with no royalties paid to the United States.
In the meantime, for as long as it takes, we promise to keep up the fight. Your fully deductible contribution will enable us to do that. On behalf of the Board of Directors and Advisory Board of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, I once again thank you for your support in this epic battle.
Sincerely, Gayle Hartmann, President