Sunday, June 20, 2010

9th Circuit Says Amended Mining Plan For Sacred Mt. Tenabo Violates NEPA

In Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone of Western Nevada v. U.S. Department of the Interior, (9th Cir., June 18, 2010), the 9th Circuit held that the Bureau of Land Management's approval of an amendment to a phased exploration project on sacred Indian land in Nevada violated the National Environmental Policy Act. Cortez Gold Mines, Inc. plans to explore for minerals in the area that is traditionally linked to the religion and culture of the Te-Moak and other Western Shoshone tribes. In particular, Mount Tenabo, traditionally used for prayer and meditation, is considered the source of life by the tribes and figures in their creation stories. The court concluded that the BLM's required Environmental Assessment of the amendment to the project failed to adequately consider the cumulative impacts to Cultural Resources and Native American Religious Concerns of the proposal. However the court concluded that the project did not violate either the National Historic Preservation Act or the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. After consultation with the Tribe, BLM has already designated Horse Canyon and parts of Mount Tenabo-- both within the project area-- as eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Courthouse News reports on the decision.