Federal mining regulations and laws, including the General Mining Law of 1872, as amended, require the Forest Service to allow mineral exploration and development on National Forest System lands. The surface-disturbing drilling activities proposed in Comexico’s plan of operations require analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Forest Service can add mitigation measures and modifications to Comexico’s plan of operations to minimize potential environmental impacts. The project area is within designated critical habitat for the Mexican spotted owl, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, and the endangered Holy Ghost ipomopsis as well as habitat for the goshawk, peregrine falcon and Rio Grande cutthroat trout. [press release, Santa Fe National Forest]The US Forest Service is often powerless to stop the extractive industry from permanently altering sensitive watersheds because of the 1872 law. Repeal or even reform of the 1872 statute has been thwarted repeatedly by the earth hating Republican Party.
In September we motored to Oracle, Patagonia, Bisbee and Morenci from Santa Fe and were shocked by the ravages of surface mining in SE Arizona where operations owned by Morenci and Miami are ravaging water supplies and reducing entire mountain ranges to piles of waste rock.