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Possible Mine Near Tererro Faces NM Opposition

Pecos, N.M., residents fear a new mining operation in the area could harm the environment and possibly contaminate the village water supply.  (nps.gov)
Pecos, N.M., residents fear a new mining operation in the area could harm the environment and possibly contaminate the village water supply. (nps.gov)
December 23, 2019

SANTA FE, N.M. -- A mining proposal near New Mexico's Pecos Wilderness is getting pushback from local residents, who have four weeks to submit comments to the U.S. Forest Service. The Stop Tererro Mine Coalition opposes plans by New World Cobalt, an Australian mining company, to explore for precious metals by drilling boreholes near the Pecos River.

It's often a precursor to a large-scale mining operation. And Lela McFerrin, vice president with the Upper Pecos Watershed Association, said a full-blown mine has the potential to jeopardize the area's way of life.

"Recreational tourism is our only and biggest industry here in Pecos," McFerrin said. "It's the difference between clean, recreational tourism or dirty, toxic mine."

The Forest Service is accepting public comments about the mining proposal through January 17. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has already sent the agency a letter expressing opposition to the mining exploration.

The governor's opposition may not matter, however, because the General Mining Act of 1872 mandates minerals on federal land be made accessible for extraction. But Liliana Castillo, communications and media director at New Mexico Climate Advocates Voces Unidas, argued ecological and human health hazards must also be considered.

"The community itself has stated over and over again that they're looking for a sustainable economy, something that will carry them into the future and in perpetuity," Castillo said. "And they don't see mining as fitting into that."

Community members have historical reasons to be concerned, as well, after a 1991 snow-melt brought down contaminants from a previous mine that killed 90,000 fish. McFerrin said it also severely impacted the area's outdoor recreation economy -- and taxpayers paid $28 million in cleanup costs.

"You can't take acid and toxic waste out of the ground and not have it leach into the ground water or into the area," McFerrin said. "So, they never die - you just keep remediating."

Opponents have said they want the scoping process for the project to include protecting the environment and public health.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM