Four environmental groups sued the U.S. Forest Service Monday, charging that its approval of the proposed Rosemont Mine violated 10 environmental laws and seeking to have the approval overturned.
The 75-page lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, directly challenges the service's statement in its June decision approving the mine that it won't violate environmental laws.
The Forest Service has long stated that it can't say "no" to the mine as long as it meets all applicable federal laws and regulations.
Coronado Forest Supervisor Kerwin Dewberry declined to comment on the suit Monday, saying the agency typically doesn't comment on pending litigation except in formal legal responses.
The suit alleged that the mine will violate various water laws and standards, for instance, by reducing flows to Cienega Creek and its tributary Empire Gulch. The suit also warns of water quality violations due to mine discharges of pollutants such as arsenic, iron and mercury into Barrel Canyon, a tributary to Davidson Canyon which in turn flows into Cienega Creek.
The suit also says the Forest Service is legally wrong in saying that it can't stop the mine due to a host of laws dating back to the 1872 Mining Act. The service says those laws essentially provide a right for people and companies to mine resources from federal lands as long as they meet environmental laws and rules.
But the lawsuit says these laws only apply when a mining company shows it has filed valid mining claims to the federal land. Such claims are only valid if the company has shown publicly that it can mine the area's copper at a profit, which the suit says it hasn't done.
The suit was filed by the Tucson-based Save the Scenic Santa Ritas and Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter and the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition.