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Mine Spill Victims Declare Victory After Supreme Court Ruling

The Mexican Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a small Sonoran community opposed to a copper mine’s tailings pond.

Residents of Bacanuchi, a three-hour drive south of Bisbee, praised the high court’s ruling Wednesday, saying it could give them a chance to learn more about the project at the Buenavista del Cobre copper mine.

“If they're going to be doing something so big, they're going to make us participants. They're going to inform us about what’s in (the tailings pond), what chemicals, and how protected is it so that more damage isn’t done,” said Maribel Bustamante, a resident and member of a group involved in the suit.

Her small town was one of several impacted by a major 2014 spill at the mine, which is owned by Grupo Mexico. During the disaster, millions of tons of waste — including toxic heavy metals — poured down the Bacanuchi and Sonoran rivers. The company did not respond to a request for comment on the ruling.

Luis Miguel Cano, the lawyer representing Bacanuchi residents, said he hopes tailings pond operations are suspended until Bacanuchi residents can be meaningfully consulted. A full ruling explaining the decision will eventually be released by the court, though that could be several months out.

Born and raised in the Intermountain West, Murphy Woodhouse has called southern Arizona home for most of the last decade. He’s one of two field correspondents at KJZZ’s Hermosillo bureau, where his reporting focuses on the trade relationship between Arizona, Sonora and the rest of Mexico.Before joining the station, Murphy was a reporter at the Arizona Daily Star and the Nogales International. Prior to his reporting career, he completed a master’s degree at the University of Arizona’s Center for Latin American Studies and did three wildfire seasons with the Snake River Hotshots. He’s a proud graduate of the University of Montana’s School of Journalism.When he’s not reporting, Murphy is often out in the woods running or riding singletrack, or swinging in a hammock with a book.