Update on Court hearings to protect Mt. Tenabo from a new open pit gold mine proposed by Barrick Gold and approved by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The hearing at the Federal Court in Reno, Nevada began on January 20 and ended today, January 23rd – it was a long week, but seemed to go ok. The Judge extended the restraining order until Monday at which time (3:00 p.m. PST) he will render his decision on whether to grant the injunction to stop the mine project on Mt. Tenabo until a full hearing on the merits. Below are some stories that came out on the hearing – check www.gbrw.org for more updates.
You can find updated action items on our website, and here are some links to news stories:
Sandra is the on-site reporter from Tuesday
January 20, 2009
Hearing begins in Reno on disputed gold mine
By SANDRA CHEREB
Associated Press Writer
Western Shoshone tribal members packed a Reno courtroom Tuesday, trying to persuade a federal judge to halt at least part of a huge gold mine they claim would desecrate a sacred landmark.
Lawyers for Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp. and the federal government disagreed with their claims that mining on Mount Tenabo in northeast Nevada would prevent the Shoshone from practicing their religion.
Roger Flynn, an attorney representing members of the Western Shoshone and the environmental group Great Basin Resource Watch, told U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks that Barrick’s Cortez Hills Project near Crescent Valley some 250 miles east of Reno would cause irreparable harm to the mountain.
Western Shoshone and environmentalists are seeking a preliminary injunction to block construction of the planned 6,700-acre project until a trial can be held on the merits of the tribe’s claims.
Among other things, they argue the U.S. Bureau of Land Management used flawed environmental studies when it approved the project, which would include a 900-acre open pit, 2,000 feet deep.
Opponents also claim the approval violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because the say the mine will prevent Western Shoshone from practicing their religion.
Shawn Collins, a member of the Te-Moak band of Western Shoshone and a third generation miner, said his ancestors were born on Mount Tenabo, which he described as the source of the family’s “puha,” or life force.
A heavy equipment operator for Newmont Mining Corp., Collins said he does not oppose mining, but objects to the work planned on Tenabo.
Collins testified he also was concerned about groundwater levels that environmental studies projected could drop more than 200 feet if the mine goes forward.
The water, he said, “is like the veins in our body … the earth blood.”
“If you do pump the water, you’re taking the life from the mountain,” he said.
Francis Wikstrom, a lawyer for Barrick, said in his opening statement that the mountain has been mined for more than century, and the mine would not prevent Western Shoshone from practicing their beliefs.
Western Shoshone “consider all of the land, all of the air, all of the water sacred,” he said, not just Mount Tenabo.
“They can conduct religious services anywhere,” he said.
Wikstrom said stopping the mine would cause economic harm to the company and workers.
Outside the federal courthouse, about three dozen Western Shoshone and others demonstrated. Some beat drums while others held signs reading, “Gold is not worth more than water,” and “Gold is not above life and culture.”
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