Conservation Groups to federal court: Protect the Florida Mountains in New Mexico from commercial mining
New Mexico federal court hears arguments in lawsuit challenging BLM’s approval of proposed dolomite mine in Luna County
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 13, 2023
Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, WildEarth Guardians, 505-401-4180, firstname.lastname@example.org
Wes Light, Friends of the Floridas, email@example.com
Sally Paez, New Mexico Wild, firstname.lastname@example.org; 505.216.9719
Allyson Siwik, Gila Resources Information Project, email@example.com; 575.590.761
ALBUQUERQUE—On July 12, 2023, the Federal District Court for the District of New Mexico heard oral arguments related to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s decision to approve American Magnesium LLC’s proposal to develop a dolomite mine in the Florida Mountains near Deming, New Mexico. The arguments centered around whether BLM violated federal law and whether BLM’s approval of the mining project should be overturned.
In September 2020, a coalition of conservation groups including Friends of the Floridas, New Mexico Wild, WildEarth Guardians, Gila Resources Information Project, and Amigos Bravos sued BLM to reverse the agency’s simultaneous approvals of construction and operation of the dolomite mine, and the exploration activity required to prove the value of the mineral claim. This two-for-one approval violates the Federal Land Policy Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The suit also contends that BLM did not fully evaluate all of the environmental issues due to the failure to identify the impacts of ore hauling through residential areas, and the impacts of necessary ore processing activities.
“Approving American Magnesium’s mine proposal without a valid plan for processing the ore and without considering the potential adverse effects of mineral processing is akin to investing in a business venture without a clear profit strategy. Our concern stems from the fact that the BLM has not sufficiently assessed and disclosed the potential significant environmental and community impacts of the entire mine proposal. The public’s ability under federal law to provide meaningful input on the proposal is being thwarted by an incomplete mine plan of operations.” Allyson Siwik, Executive Director, Gila Resources Information Project.
The mine project lies at the western edge of the Florida Mountains in Luna County, approximately 12 miles from Deming. Considered a “sky island” ecosystem, this mountain range is home to exceptionally diverse and unique plant and animal communities. The mountains are characterized by dramatic multicolored cliffs and jagged spires that frame the horizon and form part of the Mimbres River drainage basin.
“The BLM must take seriously its obligation to steward a permitting process that protects public lands and communities,” says Madeleine Carey, Southwest Conservation Manager for WildEarth Guardians. “The approval of this mining proposal lacks the care and due diligence the public deserves from its land management agencies.”
The proposed project would involve extensive exploratory drilling, including blasting and excavating a large open mine pit, in addition to building new roads across public land, and the construction and operation of industrial infrastructure in close proximity to a Wilderness Study Area and an Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Mine operations would last 30 years and include up to 92 truck trips per day, passing through sensitive ecological areas on public land and residential areas in Deming.
“Any environmental impact study of a mine that doesn’t include ore transportation, ore processing, and waste disposal, is a joke” said Wes Light, Friends of the Floridas.
The Florida Mountains offer a multitude of outstanding recreational opportunities, including rock climbing, horseback riding, hunting, birding, and photography. All of these values would be negatively impacted during the decades of mine operations.
“The BLM took a haphazard approach to reviewing and approving both exploratory drilling and a full-scale mining operation, without obtaining and analyzing critical information about environmental and community impacts,” said Sally Paez, staff attorney for New Mexico Wild. “By cutting corners, the BLM put sensitive public lands and the community at risk, and violated the laws that require meaningful public participation and informed decision-making.”
The organizations participating in this litigation are represented by attorneys from Western Mining Action Project, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, and WildEarth Guardians.