U.S. government joins Hudbay Minerals to appeal judge's ruling against Rosemont Mine

December 30, 2019

The U.S. Justice Department joined Hudbay Minerals in filing an appeal of the 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that blocked construction of the Rosemont Copper project.

The Justice Department filed its notice of appeal on Dec. 23 challenging the District Court’s opinion that the Forest Service’s approval of the proposed openpit mine south of Tucson, AZ was “arbitrary and capricious.”

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the mine based on Hudbay Minerals Inc.’s plan to dispose of 1.9 billion tons of waste rock and mine tailings on Forest Service land in the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson.

U.S. District Judge James Soto ruled at the end of July that the Forest Service’s approval was “inherently flawed” by its failure to establish that Hudbay possessed valid mining claims for the 2,447 acres of public land where it plans to dump its waste rock and tailings.

The mine waste disposal is an integral part of the company’s proposal to build the country’s third largest copper mine at the Rosemont site, the Tucson Star reported.

Soto ruled that under the federal 1872 Mining Law, such claims aren’t valid unless the company shows that valuable mineral deposits lie underneath them.

The Justice Department, like Hudbay, made no mention in its appeal notice, filed Dec. 23, as to what legal grounds it will cite to challenge Soto’s ruling.

It filed the appeal notice on behalf of the Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. government in general and several federal officials, including Coronado National Forest Supervisor Kerwin Dewberry and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Hudbay filed its appeal notice on Dec. 20.

Hudbay officials have repeatedly said, as they did in filing their appeal notice, that Soto’s decision “misapplied mining laws and regulations that have been in place for decades to authorize and even encourage mining activities on public lands.” They haven’t elaborated on that point.

So far, Soto has ruled only on the mining claims issue and given no indication as to when or whether he’ll rule on the other issues at stake in the lawsuits. One of the suits challenged the Army Corps of Engineers’ approval in March of a federal Clean Water Act permit for the mine, but the Corps has since suspended that permit because of Soto’s ruling.

 Photo: The Santa Rita Mountains, south of Tucson, AZ.


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