Jaguar, © Gary Stolz/FWS

Saving the Sacred Santa Ritas

The Rosemont Mine project would trash the waters of one of the world’s most diverse regions

South of Tucson and north of the Mexican border, in one of Arizona’s most biodiverse regions, is the Nogales district of the breathtaking Coronado National Forest. Running through this part of the Coronado are the Santa Rita Mountains, known by locals as the “scenic” and even “sacred” Santa Ritas. These mountains are part of a well-traveled wildlife corridor between habitats in the U.S. and Mexico, and the area hosts several endangered species including the jaguar, Chiricahua leopard frog, long-nosed bat and the southwestern willow flycatcher.

Santa Rita Mountain, © Larry Jones/USFS

The diversity of the “sacred” Santa Rita Mountains in the Coronado National Forest is threatened by mining interests.

But, despite the beauty, uniqueness and recognized ecological importance of the Santa Ritas and the surrounding region, some still don’t want to protect this sacred area. While the Coronado National Forest is rich with wildlife and plant diversity, its lands are also rich in copper, silver and other precious metal deposits, making it a target for mining companies. Several open-pit projects are in the proposal stages, and one, Wildcat Silver, is in the drilling stage. Open-pit mines are particularly destructive operations because of the expanse of land and habitat affected, the long-term impacts to the landscape (most open-pits are simply left to leach into the surrounding environment once their extractive potential has been tapped), and the amount of water that is pulled from the local limited groundwater supplies and returned only as toxic tailings.

Right now, the proposed mining project of most concern to the Santa Ritas is the Rosemont Mine, a project being run by the Canadian company Rosemont Copper. Rosemont’s mile-wide, half mile-deep open pit would be dug in the middle of a major aquifer, or natural regional water source, and would require constant pumping of wastewater out of the pit to keep from flooding when operating. The tailings, or toxic mine waste, would literally be dumped on national forest land, and would cover an astounding 3000 acres of the national forest. Once all of the metal has been extracted (or, after the company has used and abused the Santa Ritas), plans for the mine indicate that the pit will hold the toxic water and never be covered – essentially creating a poisonous, leaky swimming pool that would further contaminate the groundwater, while endangering any wildlife that tries to take a bath or a drink.

Jaguars at the Northern Jaguar Reserve, © Northern Jaguar Project

Jaguars are one of many species that depend on the Coronado for its unique habitat.

Despite what Rosemont Copper (a company that has never operated a mine) may claim about bringing jobs to the area, the Rosemont project is actually all about profits for a foreign company that would come at the expense of the local economy, environment, water supply, recreation, and wildlife – including several endangered species like the jaguar, ocelot, Gila chub, desert tortoise and southwestern willow flycatcher. And no one is fooled. Local governments and officials from Pima County, the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, the EPA, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department – who filed very strong objections – as well as countless area residents and businesses like pecan growers, wineries, inns, restaurants and ranchers all know that their lives and livelihoods will be disrupted by the mine.

The Forest Service is set to make a final decision on the approval of Rosemont any day now. The potential ruination of so many acres of public land, water and air is not going unnoticed; the permits Rosemont Copper needs to legally pollute the air have been appealed, and a permit to pollute the water is still pending. Everyone who cares about clean water and clean air, local businesses and wildlife knows that Rosemont is far from a done deal. Defenders is part of a coalition of groups fighting this mine and others in Patagonia, and we will keep fighting. 

Courtney Sexton, Communications Associate, Defenders of Wildlife

29 Responses to “Saving the Sacred Santa Ritas”

  1. Michelle Lemley

    President Obama:

    Please tell the EPA to stop this ruinous mine! It’s almost as though we can’t destroy our nation fast enough between mining, fracking and Keystone XL. It is time to draw a line in the (tar) sand!

    Please reject Rosemont Copper’s bid!

    Dr. Michelle Lemley

  2. Patty Auger Kundrat

    It is terriabe to hear that you are going to put a gas pipeline right trough the land where all those animals live …what are the animals support to do this is not right something has to be done to help these poor animals please write tothe senate or cCongress there has to be a better surlution for the animal I thank you from my heart someone who cares Patty Kundrat

  3. Aimee Nosbisch

    President Obama, you say you are for protecting our environment which in turn helps us. You say that you want to protect us from ourselves… Here’s your chance. Stop this and stop the Article pipeline.

  4. Dedra C. Routh

    Saving the Sacred Santa Ritas

    President Obama:

    Please tell the EPA to stop the ruinous Rosemont Mine. It’s almost as though we can’t destroy our nation fast enough between mining, fracking, and Keystone XL.
    It is time to draw a line in the (tar) sand! Thank you.

  5. Diana Laxdal

    Please do not let this company destroy this area which is not only home to several species but also natural resources such as water. We need to take care of these resources and not let greed pollute them

  6. P. Dyer

    Protecting what few wild jaguars are left in this country-and protecting the other wildlife too-is a hell of a lot more important than another ****** mining project!

  7. cynthia gilmore

    this protected corridor needs continued legislation to stop this toxic intrusion and those in future. The ecosystems and lives they support are critical to our planet’s health. Stop all commercial intrusion!!!

  8. Sonja M. Bolyard

    President Obama,
    Please take a stand against this atrocity to our planet and Her tenants. We really do not need to go mining and destroying precious space for these animals. We already know what the destruction is doing to Mother Earth. Why do we need to keep digging for more metals? What purpose does it serve? We are stewards of this planet and only borrowing it from our children. What are we doing? There will be nothing left for our children. Could you possibly think to eat every morsel of food in your home, use up every drop of water, destroy the home itself? I know I couldn’t and I do not believe you could either. So put an end to it please. Just stop this greed. Enough is enough.

  9. Toril Øvregaard kvæven

    I think the leaders of the country must forbid this craziness !!! As long as there are so many greedy and coldhearted people, we need to help the animals to survive. We must protect both animals and nature itself!!! It is immoral and stupid not to help!!! 🙁

  10. Toril Øvregaard kvæven

    We need to help the animals to survive! We must protect both animals and nature itself! It is immoral not to help the animals and I hope the leaders of the country will forbid the gas pipeline in that area!!!

  11. Leslie Moravcik

    Someone should write a petition to stop this. If I was good at that or had experience at that I would. If someone knows how please do.

  12. Pamela Mccullock

    When will we figure out that what affects wildlife also affects us. Please stop all mining in this area.

  13. Nancy Weir

    These beautiful animals are endangered right now. Please help,them to
    Remain in their home for as long as they ca.

  14. M. Robinson

    We have to stop this from happening!! I there anything we can do? A petition?

  15. Marilyn Williams

    Stop the pipeline and protect our wildlife and ecosystem.

  16. Marie Manarite

    Make the EPA do its job and protect the citizens of this country not the special interests and their bribery!

  17. Vicki Goodyear

    Please save the Coronado national forest for the wildlife and the natural world…don’t mine there, it will destroy habitat…thank you…we beg you!

  18. Dennis German

    I am sick and tired of mining companies destroying beautiful habitats for the sake of putting that filthy money in their pockets. Apparently the only thing people in this country care about is money. If the forest service approves this, they are criminals.It is disgusting that “jobs” is always an excuse to destroy the world we live in and its beauty. People are a scourge on the face of the earth.

  19. Nancy K Diss

    Please stop the mining if the Santa Rosa mountain area the animals should come first . Look at all the wasteland strip mining creates and the water wastage
    The animals need it more once we kill off all the animals we are next because without the ecosystem we nor the animals can’t survive!!!

  20. Clare S Freeman

    We need a moratorium on all extractive mineral (mis)development.

  21. margarita perez

    Please think of the endangered species like the jaguar, ocelot, Gila chub, desert tortoise and southwestern willow flycatcher in that area. Think of all the innocents that are there. STOP and do what’s right! We need to be the voice for the voiceless. SAVE the Santa Rita Mountains. PLEASE!

  22. Robin Bolduc

    U no three has to be a other way to survive on this planet without destroying everything around us Land & Animal. Really, please Stop this insane act of killing everything so beautiful, Our land is previous to us an it shouldn’t be for sale to make one corporate rich an destroying anything plant or animals for a buck. Please save our land an our animals for our children & grandchildren

  23. Michel Hyman

    President Obama,
    If you can’t save our wild animals you certainly can’t save us! The destruction of our lands must stop! This is a basic and necessary action for all! Please take this seriously!

  24. Odelia Sky

    Please save the Coronado national forest for our precious endangered wildlife like jaguar, ocelot, Gila chub, desert tortoise and southwestern willow flycatcher, and the natural world. STOP THE MINING!!! We are destroying Mother Earth!!!
    Without her, we have and are nothing!!!

You May also be interested in