RENO — A group of American Indians and environmental supporters has asked a federal court to block a big gold mining project they say will desecrate sacred Western Shoshone religious sites in Northern Nevada.
In a motion filed Monday in U.S. District Court, mine opponents argue Barrick Gold Corp.’s Cortez Hill Project will permanently alter the environment, cause "irreparable harm" and prevent Shoshone "from accessing their religious use areas" on Mount Tenabo that will be engulfed by the project.
The motion seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction was filed by lawyers for the South Fork Band Council of Western Shoshone, Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, Western Shoshone Defense Project, and Great Basin Resource Watch.
It follows a lawsuit filed last week against the U.S. Department of Interior and the Bureau of Land Management, which approved the mine.
Shoshone opponents plan a "day of resistance" today at the Lander County site to protest the mine.
"We want them off this mountain; this is a spiritual genocide what’s going on," said Carrie Dann, a grandmother and Shoshone activist whose family has fought the federal government over public lands issues for decades.
Officials with Barrick, which is headquartered in Toronto, said the mine will produce about 1 million ounces of gold a year in its first full five years of production. Underground mining is to start this year and the open-pit operation should start in late 2009 or early 2010.
Barrick spokesman Lou Schack has said the lawsuit has no merit and that mining has occurred on Mount Tenabo since the late 1800s.
He said the project will be good for Nevada’s mining economy.