The process toward mining on public lands is extensively regulated, and must be reviewed by the U.S. Forest Service.
Arizona has a major mining industry. In addition to the Rosemont Copper Project, there are several proposals to mine in the Patagonia Mountains south of Tucson.
Whenever an individual or agency proposes any action to mine, the U.S. Forest Services must consider the environmental effects and consequences prior to granting permission, said Heidi Schewel, communications staff officer of the Coronado National Forest.
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 requires the mining proposals to undergo a complex reviews to ensure there will be no harm to the surrounding environment.
Also the General Mining Law of 1872 states that U.S. citizens have the right to enter public lands and search for minerals. This law was created with the intention of promoting the development of the country.
Since then, subsequent laws have been created to protect the environment and keep regulations in place.
Mindy Vogel, minerals and geology program manager for the Coronado National Forest, said there are now a number of laws that better define which minerals people are allowed to scavenge under the 1872 law. Those minerals are known as “locatable minerals,” or minerals that are economic, such as gold, silver, and platinum.
This strict process to allow or deny mining determines which projects are allowed to go forth, and which projects are stalled, said Vogel.
Ashley Grove is a journalism student and an intern for Arizona Public Media.