On Aug. 1, 2019, Judge James Soto, in what was seen as a victory for environmental groups, blocked the Rosemont Mine from construction and by overturning the decisions made by the Forest Service. “In his 37-page decision, Soto hammered almost exclusively at the Forest Service’s approval of Hudbay’s plan to dump mine waste rock and tailings from its 955-acre pit onto 2,447 acres of nearby public land on the Santa Ritas’ eastern slopes,” reported the Arizona Daily Star.
Residents from Eastern Santa Cruz have been involved in the long campaign resisting the Rosemont Mine through the work of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas (SSSR). If allowed, the Rosemont mine proposal would deeply impact the residents of Eastern Santa Cruz, said Morris Farr, in terms of “aesthetics, tourism, truck traffic, and declining property values.” Farr, a resident of Sonoita and a board member for SSSR for the last 18 years said that the group was disappointed when Rosemont received a permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers in March 2019, clearing the way for construction of the open-pit mine.
However, they were quick to act with various other groups and were one of the plaintiffs for the legal case against the mine. Their attorney argued that the Hudbay proposal was using National Forest land to dump its tailings rather than mining and therefore the 1872 mining law did not apply. The courtroom was “packed” for the entire week and both sides had many attorneys working on the case, said Farr.
If Judge Soto’s verdict remains unchallenged it will set a national precedent for mining on National Forest land. The verdict will be challenged in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by Hudbay Minerals and may go all the way to the Supreme Court.
As of now the court date for the appeal has not been set and it may take up to two years for it to be heard. In this time, Farr said, there is hope that the company may decide not to pursue this project any further as they consider the losses incurred by their shareholders. Farr said they are watching and waiting and “cautiously optimistic” about the 9th Circuit court case.