Trustees Open 45-Day Public Comment Period on Phase II Draft Restoration Plan for Injured Natural Resources at Cyprus Tohono Mine, Tohono O’odham Nation

Last edited 09/03/2020

mine tailings impoundments at Cyprus Tohono Mine
Hazardous substances releases at evaporation ponds and tailings impoundments at the Cyprus Tohono Mine site, shown here, on the Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona, have injured natural resources including groundwater and migratory birds. Photo credit: Freeport-McMoRan.

On October 11, 2012, the federal and Tribal natural resource trustees opened a 45-day public comment period on “Phase II: Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for the Cyprus Tohono Mine Natural Resource Damage Assessment, Sif Oidak District, Tohono O’odham Nation.” This Phase II Draft Restoration Plan presents alternatives and selects a preferred alternative to restore natural resources injured by hazardous substances releases from the Cyprus Tohono Mine site on the Tohono O’odham Nation.

The natural resource trustees in this case include:

  • Tohono O’odham Nation, represented by Tohono O’odham Department of Natural Resources, Tohono O’odham Attorney General, North Komelik Community and Sif Oidak District; and,
  • U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Cyprus Tohono Mine is an open pit, copper mining operation on 4,180 acres of leased land near the community of North Komelik in the Sif Oidak District on the Tohono O’odham Nation, southwest of Casa Grande in southern Arizona. The mining site lies in arid Sonoran Desert in the Santa Rosa Basin southwest of the Slate Mountain Range. Hazardous substances -- including various metals, sulfate, sulfuric acid and radionuclides -- released into on-site evaporation ponds, leach residue ponds and a pit lake injured natural resources and natural resource services.

In July 2009, the trustees partially settled natural resource damage claims in a Consent Decree with Cyprus Tohono Corporation. The monetary portion of settlement had two phases. Phase I provided $78,710 compensation for past lost use of groundwater. Phase II provided $746,290 compensation for past, non-groundwater, natural resource damages. This Phase II Draft Restoration Plan, after examining various alternatives, proposes to apply this Phase II funding to create new wetlands and/or enhance existing wetlands to create habitat for migratory birds.

Written comments on the Phase II Draft Restoration Plan must be received by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Phoenix, Arizona, by Monday, November 26, 2012.

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