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Western Shoshone gather at NV mountain being mined

by Martin GriffithAssociated Press
April 18th, 2009

Dozens of Western Shoshone tribal members and activists are holding an annual ceremonial event on the flank of a northern Nevada mountain that is at the heart of their legal battle against the world's biggest gold mining company.

More than 125 people have turned out for the Western Shoshone Spring Gathering at Mount Tenabo, 250 miles east of Reno. The three-day event ends Sunday.

Organizers say this year's gathering is intended to drum up support for Western Shoshone and conservationists who are trying to halt Barrick Gold Corp. ( ABX - news - people )'s huge gold mine project at Mount Tenabo.

A federal judge has refused their request to block the 6,700-acre Cortez Hills project, but their appeal is pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Western Shoshone consider Mount Tenabo in northeastern Nevada a sacred landmark. Standing at the intersection of three valleys, it's located on an important north-south trail.

"This is where my family comes from, and it's important to preserve the beauty and sacredness and spiritual life around this mountain," Mary Gibson, a Western Shoshone grandmother, said Saturday.

"This is probably the last time we'll get to see it like this. This country has no right to erase the Shoshones from our homeland. It's our right to be here," she added.

The gathering features traditional singing and dancing, sunrise ceremonies, circle talks, speakers and youth activities. Many attendees are camping out.

It's being held near the new Barrick mining area and near blue tarps that mark archaeological sites.

Julie Cavanaugh-Bill of the Western Shoshone Defense Project said attendees are still hopeful of winning the lawsuit against the Toronto-based company on appeal.

"There are certain places that shouldn't be mined no matter the quantity of gold there," she said. "There are places that need to be left alone. They have to learn to take no for an answer."

Barrick spokesman Louis Schack said the area has been mined for over 150 years, and the company underwent a rigorous federal review process to obtain permits for the 2,000-foot-deep open pit.

He said dozens of Western Shoshone are involved in the project as employees, contractors and observers, and the project is important to the rural Nevada economy.

"It's unfortunate that a few angry people want to stop what is a very positive development out there," Schack said. "We certainly expect to prevail in the 9th Circuit. Frankly, their case isn't very strong.

"We believe we have been responsible throughout the planning and permitting process, and that we continue to act responsibly," he added.


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