Native American Legal Update

Western Shonone continue battle to save sacred site

It has been a long, rocky ride for the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians of Nevada in their struggle to protect Mount Tenabo, a mountain sacred to the Tribe and its members.  The Barrick Gold Corporation, headquartered in Canada, has proposed to open one of the largest open pit cyanide heap leach gold mines in the United States at the mountain.  In its quest to mine at Mount Tenabo, the Corporation is conducting a massive groundwater pumping process.

In December 2009, the Ninth Circuit found that the Interior Department's approval of the mine likely violated federal law, and issued an order enjoining the construction and operation of the mine.  The court noted that enjoining the mine was in the public interest due to the "irreparable environmental harm threatened by this massive project."  In 2010, the court again found that the Bureau of Land Management had failed to adequately analyze the potential for the project to pollute the air and dry up scarce water resources.

But after the Bureau revised its formal analysis of potential environmental impacts, a district court lifted the injunction and cleared the way for the digging of the 2,000-foot pit.  The Tribe sued, seeking to overturn the Bureau's actions, but the district court denied the Tribe's motion for summary judgment.  The Tribe filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit on June 5.

Pleadings in the case are available here, and a video about the Tribe's struggles can be found here.  The Native American Rights Fund and the Tzo'-Nah Foundation have established a call to action to preserve Native American sacred places.

 

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