Sacred case

The Western Shoshone have filed a motion with the U.S. District Court in Nevada seeking an injunction to halt Barrick Gold’s open pit cyanide leach gold mine on Mt. Tenabo, considered sacred to the tribe.

It was just a year ago that U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks, a former Washoe County district attorney, refused to grant an injunction to halt the project, known as the Cortez Hills Expansion Project. Hicks then said the planned damage to the mountain was not a severe enough breach of religious freedom to warrant an injunction: “The effect of the proposed mining project is on the plaintiffs’ subjective, emotional experience. It is offensive to their sensibilities and in the mind of some will desecrate a sacred mountain. … Nevertheless, the diminishment of that spirituality—as serious as it may be—under the Supreme Court’s holdings, it is not a substantial burden on religious freedom.”

So the tribes went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco and won a ruling that references “irreparable environmental harm threatened by this massive project” and finds that the tribes are likely to succeed on the merits of their legal arguments that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management violated federal environmental and public land law in approving the project. The tribes now want Hicks to implement the Ninth Circuit ruling with an injunction. Barrick wants Hicks to limit the impact of any injunction and to conduct a review before issuing one. The tribes argue that the Ninth Circuit ruling has already moved the case past that point: “[T]he Ninth Circuit specifically ruled against Barrick that a full injunction suspending the Project was warranted in this case.” (The Ninth Circuit posts only selected decisions on its website, and the Mt. Tenebo ruling is not one of the selections.)

The case is being described by some journalism critics as an instance of “censored news” because it has received no mainstream coverage.