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New El Jefe images stir debate over mine

Posted at 9:45 PM, Feb 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-11 10:40:24-05
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- A week after new video was released of El Jefe, a new beer is brewing in honor of the endangered animal.
"We've brewed it and we added catnip after the boiling of it," said Luke Edward with Barrio Brewing Co. "We had also never really heard of it before. We didn't know what the flavor would be like."
The El Jefe Hefeweizen, a German wheat beer, is as a small way to celebrate Southern Arizona's jaguar. The brewery held an event Wednesday night for the animal and a number of conservation groups were in attendance. They say the newest images of El Jefe living in the Santa Rita Mountains are fueling the ongoing battle over the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine.
"That would just utterly destroy El Jefe's home," said Randy Serraglio with the Center for Biological Diversity. "It would just bury thousands of acres of public land with toxic mine waste and a huge open pit."
There have been permits and environmental issues brought up over the mine for years. Supporters say the mine will create jobs and strengthen the local economy, but Serragilo says there's no way jaguars will be able to live in the Santa Ritas if the mine is built.                
"We want people to know not only that we have a jaguar in Arizona, but that they belong here," Serragilo said. "And we should do what we can to protect the places they live so we can get them to recover here in the United States."
Serraglio says there are also concerns the mine may have an impact on other animal species, and water sources in the mountain range.
The Center for Biological Diversity has been tracking El Jefe for years. They believe he likely migrated from Mexico. In Sonora about 125 miles south of the border, there is a 55,000 acre refuge where there is still a breeding population of jaguars and other cats. Turtle Southern, with the Northern Jaguar Project, says over the last 10 years they've captured photos of about 50 different cats.
"Because the jaguar is the top of the food chain, you protect the jaguar and you're actually protecting birds, bats, snakes, rabbits, everything," Southern said. 
Southern works with groups like the Center for Biological Diversity. Both Southern and Serragilo says jaguars are native to Arizona, and it could be a place for the animals to live again. The biggest threats to the species include poisoning, poaching and habitat destruction, Southern said.
Over the years the copper mine project planners have argued one cat is not enough to scratch the project, and the Santa Ritas are not a critical habitat for the jaguar. Nine On Your Side reached out to Hudbay Minerals, the Canadian corporation planning the mine. Below is the written statement from the company:
"The Santa Rita Mountain Range covers approximately 138,000 acres. The Rosemont Project is approximately 5,000 acres, including land buffer and production facilities; about  1/8th of the property will be taken up by the actual mine. In the U.S. Forest Service's Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Rosemont Project extensive measures are included to protect the jaguar's habitat. Details on the mitigation plan can be found at: 
Hudbay's leadership remains committed to the approval process and providing the regulatory agencies the plans and information they require. We remain optimistic the final steps of the permitting process will be accomplished in a timely manner and will help build a mine that creates jobs, complies with all environmental permits and requirements, and strengthens the local economy."
Back in 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a biological opinion that determined no species would be jeopardized by the mine. However given some new information, the agency is currently reviewing the report and could release new information in the next few months.