TUCSON (CN) – The Tohono O’odham Nation sued Cyprus Tohono Corp. in Federal Court, saying the copper mining company despoiled tribal lands and resources. The tribe says Cyprus released hazardous materials at its 10,500-acre site near the small reservation community of North Komelik, about 32 miles southwest of Casa Grande.
Cyprus Tohono took over the mine in 1987, the latest in a long line of mining companies that have worked the area since 1880.
The mine has already been identified as a Superfund site, and in 2006 the Environmental Protection Agency made the company clean up two evaporation ponds and a tailing impoundment that had contaminated North Komelik’s groundwater, according to EPA documents.
The EPA is still investigating the site, the tribe says.
The Tohono O’odham, formerly known as Papago, are the second-largest tribe in the nation, and the only one that occupies their aboriginal homeland and has never been at war with the U.S. government. Their 3 million acre reservation west of Tucson also is the nation’s second-largest, after the Navajos’. Tohono O’odham means the Desert People.