Conservation groups sue federal agency over proposed dolomite mine in Deming

The Florida Mountains. Photo credit: Mark Bixby.

By Algernon D’Ammassa | Las Cruces Sun-News
September 11, 2020

DEMING – Five conservation groups will ask a federal court to set aside the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of a mining project in Luna County, New Mexico, according to a lawsuit filed Friday.

The suit alleges that BLM illegally approved construction and operation of a dolomite mine at the same time it approved exploration activity to prove the value of a mineral claim in a “two for one” approval.

“BLM mining regulations and policy mandate that BLM cannot approve full-scale mining operations at the same time as the initial exploration, especially when so little is known about the purported mineral deposit to be excavated,” the complaint states.

The project, proposed by the American Magnesium company, seeks to mine dolomite from foothills in the Florida Mountains south of Deming’s city center, in close vicinity to a designated wilderness study area, a residential area and two state parks.

The suit further alleges that the agency did not evaluate the environmental impacts of hauling dolomite rock out of an area consisting of dirt roads.

American Magnesium has sought approval to mine the dolomite, believing it contains magnesium that could be extracted and sold, since early 2017. It originally proposed to transport the dolomite several miles across the city on a conveyor belt to a production facility proposed for the north side of Deming, but later conceded that the rock would need to be transported on trucks, at an estimated 92 daily trips.

The complaint also alleges that BLM erred by not considering the environmental impacts of the proposed processing facility, including its design and operating plans.

“The BLM needs to study the entire mine project, not just the quarry where the rock will be removed,” Wes Light, president of Friends of the Floridas, said in a statement. The group is one of the plaintiffs to the lawsuit.

BLM approval was required because the development would take place on federal land managed by the agency. It issued an official Finding of No Significant Impact in August. It also issued a favorable environment assessment the plaintiffs argue does not conform with requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The complaint also alleges the agency violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which governs how BLM manages public lands, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

The lawsuit claims the agency did not analyze the impacts on residences, schools and commercial interests in Deming.

The groups ask the court to set aside both project approvals and bar any action initiating the project “pending full compliance with the requirements of federal law.”

The groups bringing the lawsuit include Friends of the Floridas, New Mexico Wild, WildEarth Guardians, Gila Resources Information Project and Amigos Bravos. Attorneys with the Western Mining Action Project, New Mexico Wild and WildEarth Guardians are representing the groups in the suit.

The Bureau of Land Management declined to comment on the pending litigation .

This article originally appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.