Babbitt denies Calif. gold mine
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JANUARY 19, 2001

Following a recommendation made by the Bureau of Land Management in November, outgoing Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt on Wednesday denied an open pit gold mine operation in California on land sacred to the Quechan Nation.

Citing significant harm to national historic property and irreparable damage to the Arizona tribe's cultural values, Babbitt signed a final decision against the Imperial County proposal. The move was immediately praised by Quechan tribal President Mike Jackson.

"No amount of gold, whatever they pay, whatever it costs, will take the place of history," said Jackson. "History was saved."

But the decision to stop the mine didn't come without a fight. Earlier assessments of the 1,571-acre, open pit, cyanide heap leach project indicated its effects on the environment were acceptable.

Public comments against the mine as well as a Department of Interior legal opinion on its effects on tribal religious freedom contributed to its denial. Tribal members and officials in particular were concerned about the mine's impact on rock carvings, sacred trails, cleared circles, and the overall atmosphere of the area.

Still, mining industry interests criticized Babbitt's decision, saying he "twisted the law to futher his own personal agenda" and claiming the mine could have provided economic benefit for a depressed area. The company which proposed the mine, Glamis Gold, also expressed disappointed.

"Glamis has a strong, 20-year record of environmentally responsible mineral development in Imperial County and would apply modern and creative solutions to any impacts to Native American resources at the mine site," said President and CEO C. Kevin McArthur. "The BLM decision fails to seek consensus and ignores this Company’s proven ability to meet environmental and cultural needs at our mine sites."

The company already operates a mine several miles away from the denied one. They now plan on suing the Department of Interior.

Get the Final Decision:
Record of Decision for the Imperial Project Gold Mine Proposal Imperial County, California (US DOI Bureau of Land Management January 2001)

Relevant Links:
Glamis -
The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation -

Related Stories:
BLM recommends mine rejection (Enviro 11/10)