New Mexico regulators have approved a proposed set of rules aimed at protecting groundwater at copper mines despite claims by the attorney general's office that the proposal contradicts existing state law.
Tuesday's hearing before the state Water Quality Control Commission marked the culmination of months of wrangling over how best to deal with potential contamination at mining sites.
The commission heard days of testimony, held public meetings and reviewed volumes of information related to the so-called "copper rule" before voting 9-1 to approve modifications.
The state Environment Department has said the proposal would be the most stringent of any copper producing state in the West, but critics contend that it would give mining companies a license to pollute and could open the door to other industries to seek similar regulations.
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