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Decision clears way for Glamis mine

October 26, 2001|By LAURA MITCHELL, Staff Writer

Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton reversed an opinion by former Clinton administration Secretary Bruce Babbitt, clearing the way for Glamis Gold Ltd. to start the permitting process for its Imperial Gold Mine project.

Glamis' controversial project pits the need for economic development in the Valley against the responsibility of the U.S. government to protect sacred Native American lands.

Glamis proposes to build its mine near Quechan Indian off-reservation sacred land known as Indian Pass. The Quechan use the land for spiritual practices and say the mine would have a negative impact on the area.

Babbitt's opinion, signed in January in the last days of the Clinton administration, stated the Secretary of the Interior has the discretion to deny a mining permit if there is "undue impairment" to the environment or cultural resources. That decision made way for Babbitt to deny the Glamis Imperial project.


Courtney Ann Coyle, attorney for the Quechan Indian Tribe, said Norton's opinion was "troublesome," but said it does not rescind Babbitt's previous decision to deny the mine.

Norton needed to come out with this opinion in order to change mining regulations. That is what's driving her opinion, she said.

Norton's solicitor, Bill Myers, wrote the opinion, saying Babbitt wrongly interpreted the laws, she said.

"Babbitt's opinion was not wrong, this is just politics," Coyle said.

Glamis representatives say a balance can be reached between the needs of the Quechan Indians and the need for economic opportunities in the Valley. The mine could bring as many as 120 jobs to the area.

Glamis sued the Interior Department in March to appeal Babbitt's decision.

"Our next step is to move forward with the permitting process," Glamis spokesman Dan Purvance said. "It's been a long time coming."

Purvance said it would be hard to determine how long it would take to get permits for the mine. Glamis has been working to get the mine permitted for more than six years.

Glamis Gold Ltd. is based in Reno, Nev., but is registered in British Columbia, Canada.

Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 760-337-3452 or

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