Lawsuit filed to protect wildlife from controversial copper mine

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Copper mine could threaten the natural wildlife in the Santa Rita Mountains, including jaguars and ocelots. (Source: 123rf.com) Copper mine could threaten the natural wildlife in the Santa Rita Mountains, including jaguars and ocelots. (Source: 123rf.com)
TUCSON, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit Monday to challenge a controversial open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains, claiming it would destroy a jaguar pit.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court, challenges the “biological opinion” formed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The opinion led to the approval of the Rosemont Mine by the U.S. Forrest Service.  

“The Rosemont Mine would turn thousands of acres of the Coronado National Forest into a wasteland,” said Marc Fink, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Even though the agencies found it would permanently damage endangered species and precious groundwater resources, they’re letting the mine proceed. Wildlife officials should be focused on jaguar recovery, not green-lighting a massive mine that will destroy the animals’ habitat and suck the Santa Ritas dry.”

[RELATED: Conservationists: Wild Jaguars can make US comeback]

The mine would fall right in critical jaguar habitation, which is land that is specifically determined to be important for the survival and recovery of the jaguar population in the United States. The area includes a corridor that allows jaguars to move between southern Arizona and Mexico.

The mine would destroy the territory of the famous jaguar, El Jefe, who has been a very prominent character in the Santa Rita Mountains for over three years.

[RELATED: Game and Fish: Latest wild jaguar in Arizona is male]

“The mine is so destructive it would permanently reverse the natural direction of groundwater flow,” Fink said. “It would degrade sensitive habitat in areas that should be set aside for the protection of endangered species, including the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area and the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve.”

The mine would include a 955-acre open pit and turn over 3,600-areas of the Coronado National Forest into a waste dumping site for rocks and tailings facilities. A permanent fence would create a barrier to wildlife, reducing the habitats of dozens other species from the area, including endangered ocelots, the Gila chub, and the Chiricahua leopard frog.

The mine would also use 100,000 acre-feet of fresh water “the equivalent of 100,000 football fields covered in one foot of water” over the life of the mine. Groundwater would be pumped from wells in the Santa Cruz Valley, which could reduce water supply for the communities of Sahuarita and Green Valley.

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