(CN) – The 9th Circuit on Thursday temporarily blocked construction of a large gold mine on sacred land in northeastern Nevada.
In reversing a lower court’s earlier decision denying a preliminary injunction from conservationists and Indian tribes, the three-member panel said the U.S. Bureau of Land Management failed to analyze the risks of air pollution and the draining of water sources when it refused to stop Barrick Gold Corp. from digging a 2,000-foot pit at the Cortez Hills Mine on Mount Tenabo, 250 miles east of Reno.
Between 1999 and 2004, miners found two new gold sources near Cortez’s existing mining operations, and in 2005, submitted a proposal to expand its mining operations. The expansion project “would have disturbed 6,792 acres within the 57,058-acre project boundary,” the San Francisco-based panel stated.
The South Fork Band Council of Western Shoshone of Nevada and other tribes sued in 2008 to block the expansion, saying the mountain was sacred and the project would negatively impact the environment.
They also complained that the Bureau of Land Management “arbitrarily focused on the specific sites identified during the study,” when it should have “treated the entire mountain as sacred.”
The panel, however, upheld the lower court’s dismissal of the part of the tribes’ lawsuit complaining of disrupting sacred land.