LOS ANGELES (AP) â€” A proposed open-pit gold mine just inside California's border with Arizona would irreparably damage ancient Indian cultural and religious sites and should be banned, a federal agency said Thursday.
The final environmental impact report by the Bureau of Land Management, in reversing the findings of two draft studies, said the proposed 1,571-acre mine would harm archaeological remains such as rock carvings, cleared circles and trails.
Courtney Ann Coyle, an attorney for the Quechan tribe, said the trails connect sacred sites and have been used for ``hundreds if not thousands of years. This area is integral to the traditional cultural practices of the Quechan Indians and people of other Colorado River tribes.''
The Quechan reservation sits near the proposed gold mine, about 20 miles northwest of Yuma, Ariz.
Glamis Imperial Corp. of Reno, Nev., was seeking permission to dig the mine, but officials now say they expect a rejection and plan to appeal in the courts.
``It's unfortunate that the courts are involved in too many of our planned actions these days,'' said Gary Boyle, Glamis' general manager for the project, which would extract an estimated 1.1 million ounces of gold worth about $300 million on today's market.
David L. Hyatt, Glamis vice president of investor relations, said his company has spent $14.2 million on the mine project, including more than $1 million trying to address Quechan concerns by changing plans and mapping out ``a whole sea of chips and shards.''
``It's not like there are altars and shrines and pottery pieces and burial grounds â€” there's none of that per se,'' Boyle said.
Coyle, the tribe's attorney, said the proposed mine site is part of a larger area where ``spirit trails'' connect many different sites.
``The tribe isn't saying that all of Southern California is a sacred site to them,'' she said, ``but there definitely are other areas in Imperial County, along the Colorado River, that share connectivity.''
Coyle said the question of the cultural value of the land ``is to my mind not even a serious question. In our country, the mining company does not have right to question someone else's religious beliefs.''
The public has until mid-December to comment on the bureau's findings before a final decision is made.
On the Net:
Bureau of Land Management report: http://www.ca.blm.gov/elcentro/imperialâ€”project.html
Glamis Imperial Corp.: http://www.glamis.com