Native Americans Ask Court to Stop Gold Mine On Sacred Mountain

June 6, 2009

Author: Lisa J. Wolf

Source: Environment News Service

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Wednesday on whether the Canadian corporation Barrick Gold will be allowed to construct and operate an open pit gold mine on Mt. Tenabo in Nevada. The mine is planned on lands that are culturally and spiritually significant to the Western Shoshone native people.

The plaintiffs, three tribal groups and two conservation organizations, are seeking a preliminary injuction to stop expansion of an existing Barrick gold mining operation onto Mt. Tenabo, spelled Mt. Denabo by the native people. If the court grants the injunction, the merits of the case will be argued later in U.S. District Court in Nevada.

Barrick's existing Cortez gold mine is located 60 miles southwest of Elko, Nevada in Lander County.

According to government documents, the Barrick mine expansion, known as the Cortez Hills Project, would disturb 10 square miles of land.

Barrick Gold plans to blast a new mine pit into Mt. Tenabo nearly two miles long, over a mile wide, and half a mile deep, and in addition construct an underground mine tunneling almost a mile into Mt. Tenabo.

The company plans to construct a large cyanide heap leach processing facility, dump over 1.5 billion tons of mine waste on Mt. Tenabo, and pump over 16.5 billion gallons of groundwater from Mt. Tenabo to keep the pit dry for mining.

Barrick's pumping of water for gold production could lower the water table 1,600 feet and result in the complete elimination or substantial loss of water in at least 15 springs and seeps and one perennial stream.

Western Shoshone Grandmother Joyce McDade said, "Denabo has significant meaning for Western Shoshone. It means the writing on the rock walls of the mountain [White Cliffs] put there by our Creator."