New Mexico Wild convenes working group in response to proposed mining operation in Santa Fe National Forest
New Mexico Wild
New Mexico Wild has convened a working group made up of pueblos, private property owners, acequia and watershed associations, small business owners, outdoor enthusiasts and others to oppose a proposed mining operation in the Santa Fe National Forest near the Village of Tererro, south of the Pecos Wilderness Area.
In June it was reported that Comexico LLC – a Colorado-based subsidiary of Australian mining company New World Cobalt – has submitted an application to the Santa Fe National Forest to drill up to 30 exploratory holes to determine if the site is a viable option for a full-blown copper, gold, lead, silver, or zinc mine. The drill holes would range from 500 to 4,000 feet deep and would require 30 drill pads 50 to 60 feet wide and 30 to 40 feet long.
“The site targeted by New World Cobalt is a terrible place for a mine. Period. Drilling activities here could imperil the Pecos River and its tributaries, the Pecos Wilderness, and the people who have called the region home for centuries,” said Mark Allison, Executive Director of New Mexico Wild. “The local communities we have spoken to are deeply concerned that the proposed mine will have a devastating impact on their way of life, contaminating their water sources, hurting their outdoor recreation related businesses, and one day leaving New Mexicans on the hook for a costly cleanup.
Residents of the communities adjacent to the proposed mine are still recovering from disruptive mining operations in the area dating back to the 1920s. From 1926-1929, the Pecos Mine and El Molino Mill operated in largely the same area in which Comexico plans to begin exploratory drilling. The Pecos Mine was not closed responsibly, leading to the contamination of soils, 5-10 acres of wetlands, Willow Creek and the Pecos River. The effects of the mine, however, were felt long after its operations ceased. In 1991, spring runoff caused a massive fish kill - more than 90,000 trout died at the Lisboa Springs Fish Hatchery alone. New Mexico Wild and local stakeholders are working together to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.
The Pecos Wilderness – just north of the proposed mining operation – consists of more than 223,637 acres of protected wilderness but there are more than 120,000 acres of surrounding forests and meadows that are designated as Inventoried Roadless Areas. These lands are critical habitat for elk, deer, bear, turkey, and one of America’s most robust herds of Rocky Mountain Big Horn sheep. Its waters are home to brown trout as well as the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. The area of proposed mining is habitat for several endangered species and critical habitat for the threatened Mexican Spotted Owl. Its 400 miles of trail are beloved by hikers, equestrians, backpackers, anglers, and climbers.
The United States Forest Service has limited authority to regulate mining operations on Forest Service lands due to the General Mining Act of 1872. Senator Tom Udall has introduced the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2019, which would allow land managers to consider other land uses such as outdoor recreation when reviewing mining applications. The full text of the legislation is available here.
New Mexico Wild has requested public meetings from state officials, but they have not been scheduled so far.
“The coalition that has formed to oppose this mining proposal is as formidable and energized as any I’ve seen,” said Allison. “Comexico has no idea the hornet’s nest they’ve kicked but they will soon.”
More information about New Mexico Wild’s campaign to protect local community members, wilderness, wildlife, and water from the proposed Tererro mine is available here.
About the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance
The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance or “New Mexico Wild” is a non-profit 501 (C)(3), independent, homegrown, grassroots, conservation organization dedicated to the protection, restoration and continued respect of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas. With staff and thousands of supporters throughout the state, New Mexico Wild is dedicated to the rights and the value of citizen involvement in protecting increasingly rare wild places within public lands. Just as freedom is every American’s birthright so too is Wilderness.