Plaintiffs ask court to halt gold mine project
ELKO, Nev. (AP) – The plaintiffs in a legal dispute over a Nevada gold mining project have asked a federal judge in Reno to issue a full injunction and suspend the project.
In a U.S. District Court filing Friday, attorneys for the Western Shoshone tribes and the Western Shoshone Defense Project say a recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion calls for the Reno court to temporarily halt the Cortez Hills project.
The motion was filed in response to a Jan. 25 filing by attorneys for the mine’s operator that asks the court to consider only a partial injunction. Barrick Cortez, Inc., wants the court’s permission to continue working while the U.S. Bureau of Land Management completes court-ordered environmental impact studies.
The project is located mostly on federal land in Lander County on Mount Tenabo, about 250 miles east of Reno.
“It’s basically what we have been calling for all along,” said John Hadder, executive director of the Great Basin Resource Watch. “We don’t think what Barrick is proposing was sufficient.”
In court filings, Barrick offered to stop mine dewatering above permitted amounts at the underground mine until after the BLM can go back to study dewatering impacts. The company also offered to stop trucking ore from the Goldstrike Mine north of Carlin for processing until BLM analyzes potential mercury emissions from the loads.
However, Barrick said halting surface operations at Cortez Hills would result in layoffs of up to 630 employees and contractors over the next year, causing economic hardships for neighboring communities.
“We certainly weren’t surprised by the plaintiff’s action today,” Barrick Gold of North America President Greg Lang said Friday. “We’re doing everything we can to keep the project going and preserve employment and the benefits the project provides to the surrounding community, and we will await further direction from the courts.”
The 9th Circuit opinion was related to the appeal filed after the U.S. District Court in Reno denied an initial motion for an immediate injunction against Cortez Hills.
The lawsuit was filed against the BLM and contends that the agency failed to fully consider all impacts of the Cortez Hills Project that reaches into the flank of Mount Tenabo. Barrick Cortez, a subsidiary of Barrick Gold Corp. under Barrick Gold of North America’s wing, filed as an intervenor in the case.