U.S. Courts Screw Indians, Again.
Judge refuses to halt huge gold mine in Western Shoshone territory
By SCOTT SONNER, Associated Press Writer
Monday, January 26, 2009
(01-26) 17:10 PST Reno, Nev. (AP) --
A federal judge ruled Monday a massive gold mine project could proceed in northeast Nevada despite a bid by a Western tribe and conservationists to block it on religious and environmental grounds.
U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks ruled there's not enough evidence to force Barrick Gold Corp. to postpone digging a 2,000-foot deep open pit at the Cortez Hills mine on Mount Tenabo 250 miles east of Reno until a trial is held on the merits of the project.
The Great Basin Resource Watch and the Western Shoshone claimed the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's review of the Toronto-based company's proposed mine ignores some of the environmental effects and disregards tribal leaders' concerns it will destroy a sacred landmark.
Hicks, who took more than a half hour to explain his ruling from the bench, said a preliminary injunction like the one the plaintiffs wanted is an "extraordinary remedy" taken only when there is a likelihood they will prevail at trial.
He said that while he might change his mind, so far mine opponents had failed to prove construction of the mine would violate the tribe's religious freedoms or that the BLM violated any federal environmental laws in approving the mine under the Mining Act of 1872.
"The effect of the proposed mining project is on the plaintiffs' subjective, emotional experience. It is offensive to their sensibilities and in the mind of some will desecrate a sacred mountain," Hicks said.
"Nevertheless, the diminishment of that spirituality — as serious as it may be — under the Supreme Court's holdings it is not a substantial burden on religious freedom," he said.
Hicks said he also disagreed with the opponents' claims that the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act and Federal Land Management Policy Act by failing to adequately consider effects on groundwater and scenic values of the area.