A federal judge stopped the planned Rosemont Mine in a ruling Wednesday evening, halting plans to start building the $1.9 billion project in August.
U.S. District Judge James Soto’s ruling in Tucson overturned the U.S. Forest Service’s 2017 decision approving the mine and its 2013 final environmental impact statement clearing the way for that approval.
His ruling, if it survives expected appeals to higher courts, would drive a stake into longstanding federal policies that say the Forest Service virtually can never say “no” to a mine if it would otherwise meet federal laws. It calls into legal question how the Forest Service has used the 1872 Mining Law to justify its approval of Rosemont — and by extension other mines on its land.
Soto’s decision called the Forest Service approval “arbitrary and capricious.” He sided with environmentalists and tribes that sued to stop the Hudbay Minerals Inc. project.
The ruling caps a 12-year, polarizing debate on the proposed mine. It comes five months after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a separate, Clean Water Act permit for the project — an approval that now has no immediate legal bearing as long as the judge’s ruling against the Forest Service stands.