The Canadian miner said that it will review the decision and continue pursuing its alternative plan to advance the project in Arizona


Hudbay Minerals suffers legal setback for the Rosemont copper project. (Credit: Khusen Rustamov from Pixabay)

Hudbay Minerals has suffered a setback for its Rosemont copper project in Arizona after a federal appeals court upheld the invalidation of the US Forest Service’s approval of the proposed $1.9bn open-pit mine.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals gave a 2-1 decision against the Canadian mining company.

It affirmed the July 2019 decision of the US District Court for the District of Arizona. The district court at that time ruled that the Forest Service had relied on wrong assumptions about its legal authority and the validity of the Rosemont project’s unpatented mining claims while issuing the final environmental impact statement.

Hudbay Minerals said that it will review the decision of the federal appeals court. The Canadian miner said that in any case, it will continue pursuing its alternative plan to advance the Rosemont copper project.

The project involves digging a large open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita mountains, south of Tucson.

In 2017, a lawsuit was filed by conservation groups such as Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter challenging the approval of the Forest Service.

The US District Court Judge James Soto, in 2019, reversed the Forest Service’s record of decision and the underlying environmental analysis for the Rosemont copper project and had sent both back to the agency.

The judge’s decision was appealed subsequently by Hudbay Minerals and the US Justice Department.

Western Mining Action Project director and managing attorney, who represented the conservation groups in the case, said: “The appeals court correctly relied on the facts and the letter of the law to invalidate the mine approval.

“The Forest Service’s assumption that Hudbay had automatic rights under the 1872 Mining Law to permanently bury thousands of acres of public land with waste dumps contradicted, as the court held, ‘a century of precedent.’

“The agency and Rosemont cannot unilaterally revise the Mining Law to suit the company’s needs, as the court properly held that ‘amendment of the Mining Law is a task for Congress, not for the Service, and certainly not for us.’”