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17 Mar 2014

Sean McLernon, Law 360 (USA)

9th Circ. Backs Barrick Mine Project Over Tribal Opposition

The Ninth Circuit...refused to block a major Barrick Gold Corp. mining project in Nevada, rejecting a bid from Indian tribes claiming that work shouldn't move forward because the project area includes a sacred religious site.  The U.S. Department of the Interior did not act arbitrarily or capriciously when it approved the project because the tribes did not provide enough evidence that the area was used for religious ceremonies, according to the ruling. “The tribes point to comments from members of the tribes and tribal organizations regarding religious uses of the project area,” the decision says. “The tribes’ references, however, are personal in their description of practices and general in terms of location. They do not describe established practices.” Barrick's Cortez Hills gold mining project has been under regulatory and judicial review since 2005...Three tribes and an advocacy group contended in a November 2008 suit that the mining project violated the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal laws, and the BLM was ordered to conduct a new environmental impact statement after the government's first analysis was deemed inadequate in certain areas by the Ninth Circuit.