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Posted May 22, 2014, 1:27 pm
The discovery of a lone male ocelot roaming around the proposed Rosemont Mine in the Santa Rita Mountains will delay the controversial project.
The ocelot was captured by remote cameras as part of a joint survey run by University of Arizona researchers and officials from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Just over a month ago, the project's remote camera also snapped pictures of a northern jaguar.
The male ocelot was photographed on April 8 and May 14.
In a May 16 letter to Coronado National Forest officials, Steve Spangle, an FWS field supervisor, wrote that the ocelot was one of three triggers requiring the agency to review its own analysis of the environmental impact of the copper mine.
The agency is also concerned about the potential for damage to Cienega Creek and Empire Gulch. Decreasing stream flows in the waterways could alter habitat critical to the Huachuca water umbel plant, the Gila chub and Gila topminnow fish, the Southwestern willow flycatcher bird and the Chiricahua leopard frog, he wrote.
The letter also said that the altered stream flows may challenge two species that FWS may add to the list of endangered or threatened species: the northern Mexican garter snake and the Western yellow-billed cuckoo.
As the letter from FWS noted, the ocelot is difficult to count because it secretive nature, however, in the original environmental review the service noted that if ocelots were "definitely documented in the action area in the future, reinitiation of consultation would be prudent..."
The U.S. Forest Service will provide a response to the new review soon, said an agency spokeswoman.
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This is mine's second setback from a federal agency in less than a week.
Last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected the mine's plans to mitigate impacts on streams and washes.
In a May 13 letter to Rosemont Copper CEO Rod Pace, Col. Kimberly Colloton wrote that the company's plans to purchase water rights and other mitigation efforts won’t compensate for “unavoidable adverse impacts" from the mine.
The judgement from the engineers was sent to the Forest Service, which will use the Army Corps review to make their own decision about the proposed mine.