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Supreme Court To Hear Arguments On Copper Rule

Laura Paskus/KUNM
The Chino Mine near Silver City is one of the world's largest open pit copper mines. Also known as the Santa Rita Mine, its open pit operations began in 1910.

The New Mexico Environment Department released a new rule protecting groundwater from copper mining three years ago. The copper rule was one that state officials, mining companies, and environmentalists had spent more than six months writing. When released by the state, though, key provisions had been changed.

The state’s Water Quality Control Commission put the new rule in place. But it’s being appealed. On Wednesday, the state Supreme Court in Santa Fe will hear from lawyers on both sides.

Regulators and mining companies favor the new rule. But environmental groups and the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General disagree.

Opponents say it doesn’t protect groundwater from the open pit copper mines near Silver City. Those three mines are owned by Freeport McMoRan. In 2007 it became the world’s largest copper company when it bought Phelps Dodge.

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