Jaguar photographed on site of planned copper pit mine south of Tucson

Ten photos of jaguar near at site of 6,990-acre Rosemont mine project area-

Arizona is pockmarked with abandoned copper pit after pit and associated toxic tailings.  There are also some active pits and old ones starting back up. Finally there are plans for another new giant pit on the north end of the Santa Rita Mountains in extreme southern Arizona.

Remote cameras at the site run by Arizona Game and Fish and the University of Arizona  have just shown a full body (10 photos in all) of a male jaguar.  Of course jaguar are an endangered species in the United States.  There have been sightings, but not so well confirmed, of a jaguar in the Santa Ritas. It is not known if this is the only one.

The copper company folks were quick to point out that jaguar range around and that there are other places for him to live. However, the Santa Rita are a small (but tall in the center) mountain range.  The nearby alternative habitat is good but not extensive. The mine site is about 7000 acres (10 square miles).  A recent study concluded that the mine would degrade wildlife habitat on an additional 90,000 acres!

The mine issue is not just the jaguar or the birds.  Endangered or threatened species are all over the area of the Santa Ritas — nine more in total.

Madera Canyon, not far to the SW of the mine site is one of the most famous birding spots in the southwest.

Also in the Santa Ritas is Patagonia Lake east of Nogales. It is also a very popular wildlife, recreation and birding area, a state park.  It suffers, however, from heavy metal pollution from the many old mine diggings in the tributary streams uphill from this 260-acre man made lake. It would not be affected by this mine, but shows the toll mining has taken on this crowded part of Arizona.  The area around the nearby mountain town of Patagonia, however, is under assault by a Canadian mining company that wants to dig pits for silver.  This too will affect jaguar and many other species and change, some say “ruin” the economy of the town.

The Arizona Daily Star gives more information on the jaguar photographs. New photos show entire jaguar. By Tony Davis.

The mine would be mostly on federal land, where over the years huge messes have been made, but the 1872 mining law has prevented the collection of any royalties from the extraction of “hard rock” minerals like copper.  See Dec. 13 story on this: Report: Mineral royalties untapped. Us doesn’t know how much companies make off public lands. By Tony Davis. Arizona Daily Star.

Photo of Santa Rita Mountains. Madera Canyon. By Ralph Maughan

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Additional. Local folks at Patagonia have produced a video to try to save their town and the Patagonia Mountains (just south of the Santa Rita) from pit mining.


  1. Ellen Mass Avatar
    Ellen Mass

    I used to live in AZ (Tucson and Casa Grande). I’ve seen the scarring left by the old copper mines. we should not allow the mining companies in to do more damage! Please don’t let the jaguars and other wild life totally disappear.

  2. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    Easier said than done. I have been following the proposed Pebble Mine for Bristol Bay, Alaska, and the company claims that all of our modern technology from cell phones to hybrid cars, is strongly dependent on copper for wiring, etc. I don’t think Pebble will be approved due to the extremely highs risk to one of the last remaining salmon runs, but other places I’m not so sure about. So….

  3. Drew Avatar

    Is it possible to see the most recent 10 trail cam photos of this animal?

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    One of the biggest problems with mining as it is allowed to exist is that the companies do not have to pay for the negative impacts, both the necessary ones (in order to mine) and the unintended. Economists call these spillovers or “externalities — negative externalities.

    If the mine had to replace as much habitat as it destroyed and or make monetary payments so someone else or some group or government could this, the mining would go forward with less controversy.

    Critics of this approach would say,”well then the copper would cost more.” The is answer is, “Yes it would and that is because now you are paying the full cost of doing business rather than having someone else involuntarily subsidize you with their loss. A higher price for a messy product would also encourage recycling.

    Yes, I understand we do have a problem with meth-heads stealing copper wire.

    So this copper company should buy up habitat and/or create some as well as compensate people who will lose business due to the presence of this pit, the tailings, the noise, dust and traffic.

  5. Robert R Avatar
    Robert R

    I’ve seen some good mine reclamation that’s proably better than what was there to begain with.
    It use to be miners just mined and left it the way they mined but it’s not allowed any more, reclamation is part of the process.
    The atlantic richfield reclamation at the head waters of the Clark fork river is very impressive. The habitat they created for water fowl, fish and other animals is unbelievable.
    I’m not defending mining companies but it can be done.

    1. Nancy Avatar

      I seem to recall Robert R

      “The habitat they created for water fowl, fish and other animals is unbelievable”

      the same “rosey” terms were used around nuclear power plants, back in their hayday.

      1. Robert R Avatar
        Robert R

        Check it out Nancy and take a closer look don’t just drive by.

        1. Nancy Avatar

          Easy enough to do Robert R

          1. Robert R Avatar
            Robert R

            Nancy the reason I know about the reclamation is that we have hauled thousands of tons of manure and lime to stabilize the soil to help grow vegetation.

            1. Nancy Avatar

              And that effort has accomplished what?

              Not a nasty question Robert R, just trying to understand whether there’s some actual good being attempted here or just an effort to cover up the years of damage.

              1. Robert R Avatar
                Robert R

                Nancy I think your right about a cover up in the sense that mining did not have the regulations back when most of this happened.

        2. Elk275 Avatar

          Robert R

          They may have done an outstanding job of reclamation in the Upper Clark’s Fork but the Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana will never go away. The water in the pit is deadly and would destroy everything between Butte and Astoria, OR if the pit ever ruptured. The the best idea would be to develop the technology to remove the heavy metals from the waste water instead of starting a new mine. It is a WIN-WIN. Waste water cleaned up and heavy metals removed and refined.

          1. Nancy Avatar

            “The the best idea would be to develop the technology to remove the heavy metals from the waste water instead of starting a new mine”

            YES! YES! YES, Elk. Couldn’t agree more!

    2. Ellen Mass Avatar
      Ellen Mass

      reclamation ‘is’ possible but what of the loss of habitat for endangered species for the 10-20 years the mine would be actively destroying the surrounding area? I personally don’t think it is worth it! even 10 years is time enough to cause extinction of several species.

  6. Nancy Avatar

    Precious metals:

    How many on this site, buy into the need to upgrade/replace their electronics (computers/cell phones etc.) every 6 months or once a year, because of the “gotta have the latest in technology” mentality, so prevalent out there?

    Myself? Never owned a cell phone and I’m right now, typing away on a 7 year old laptop 🙂

    1. Mark L Avatar
      Mark L

      Because somewhere along the way many of us were told consumerism=patriotism, among other things.

      1. Nancy Avatar

        Yet little, if any, of those “goods” are produced in the good ole US of A.

    2. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      Same here. I get a lot of flak about it too. I have the bare minimum of a cell phone which I hardly ever use, and a basic computer. I don’t plan on upgrading to the latest and greatest. I I do have a hybrid car tho. 🙂

      1. Nancy Avatar

        Can only imagine Ida, how well hybrids (cars) would do in this country if the price of those cars were actually within the price range of many middle (or even lower income) consumers 🙂

  7. Louise Kane Avatar

    These are some images that were taken at Blackbird Mine Idaho where copper tailings corrupted the watershed. I did not take the images, but during my time there, I put together an archive of images from the Habitat Restoration Center, to be housed in the NOAA photo library. I remember these from sorting through the cases of images and doing the interviews and research to compile the and write the case summaries. The restoration actions were handled by our staff just shortly before I got there. Copper mining is extremely destructive

    1. Louise Kane Avatar

      take a look at the blue water in the river

  8. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Isn’t this the part in the story where some POS pseudo-biologist snares the Jaguar while trying to trap bears?
    I was in Madera Canyon photographing Elegant Trogans when Macho B was snared and killed a few years ago. Let’s hope they keep their hands off of this cat and not study it to death.

  9. A Western Moderate Avatar
    A Western Moderate

    Does anyone know about mining methods? Specifically, I’m curious why in the 21st century it would still require toxic chemicals.

    1. SAP Avatar

      21st Century especially requires toxic chemicals, in some instances. There’s a lot of low-grade ore out there to be had. In the old days of just crushing up ore and smelting the good stuff out of it, mining companies left a lot of the low-grade ore untouched because extracting the valuable metals from it wasn’t profitable.

      Enter heap leaching:

      Pile up that low-grade ore, spray it down with cyanide or sulphuric acid or whatever, and collect the valuable stuff on the downhill side.

      Even conventional mining and processing will have a lot of toxic byproducts — other heavy metals, sulphur, and so on that used to be locked up in the ore but is now up on the surface and pulverized into harder-to-contain forms (dust).

      1. A Western Moderate Avatar
        A Western Moderate

        Thank you.

      2. ZeeWolf Avatar

        Not only was low-grade ore unprofitable to refine it was frequently beyond the technological abilities of the age. Whenever commodity prices increase, it is frequent to see someone re-processing the old tailings piles. Besides the heap-leach method you mentioned, mercury was also used to form an amalgamation, at least in gold mining; this practice was especially toxic when the mercury was vaporized.

        Many of the minerals found in ore bodies, whether the target mineral or other by-products, are sulfide bearing. The sulfides react to any air and water present and form sulfuric acid which in turn leaches through tailings piles and reacts with the heavy metals. The heavy metals, cadium, lead, zinc, selenium, etc.. then enter water and contaminate the surrounding environment.

        Most pollution can be mitigated but that costs money and cuts into a company’s profit margin. The mining industry as a whole has a poor track record when mitigating pollution. As an example see

  10. Robert Bunch Avatar

    Where can we see these photos?

  11. Monty Avatar

    Are there any wildlands left in the late great state of Arizona with all of the human “tonnage” that keeps moving to the state? Isn’t traditional mining one of the most socialistic actvities in that they mine the wealth & leave the cleanup costs to society?

  12. Wyrdbyrd Avatar

    Per “Robert R’s” comments: I’m from MT and the only reason the Atlantic Richfield (aka, ARCO) mine cleaned up their site is because of the lawsuit –aka, LARGEST EPA SUPERFUND SITE IN THE US = ARCO.
    READ: They had NO intention of cleaning up after themselves. They were FORCED to do so via lawsuits.

  13. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    Wyrdbyrd and all,

    There was a Superfund toxic site in Northern Idaho almost as large — “The Silver Valley.”

    The huge Idaho site was not cleaned up out of the goodness of heart of the mining companies either. A number of the companies no longer even existed. Mining began back in the 1880s.

    The State of Idaho also was not very helpful in the cleanup. It filed a number of lawsuits trying to retard and restrict what the EPA wanted to clean up.

  14. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    The State of Idaho also was not very helpful in the cleanup. It filed a number of lawsuits trying to retard and restrict what the EPA wanted to clean up.

    Why? This makes me just shake my head.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan