Arizona’s senators sold out the Apaches to their favorite mining company

About an hour east of Phoenix, near a mining town called Superior, men, women and children of the San Carlos Apache tribe have been camped out at a place called Oak Flat for more than three months, protesting the latest assault on their culture.

Three hundred people, mostly Apache, marched 44 miles from tribal headquarters to begin this occupation on Feb. 9. The campground lies at the core of an ancient Apache holy place, where coming-of-age ceremonies, especially for girls, have been performed for many generations, along with traditional acorn gathering. It belongs to the public, under the multiple-use mandate of the Forest Service, and has had special protections since 1955, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower decreed the area closed to mining — which, like cattle grazing, is otherwise common in national forests — because of its cultural and natural value. President Richard M. Nixon’s Interior Department in 1971 renewed this ban.

Despite these protections, in December 2014, Congress promised to hand the title for Oak Flat over to a private, Australian-British mining concern. A fine-print rider trading away the Indian holy land was added at the last minute to the must-pass military spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act. By doing this, Congress has handed over a sacred Native American site to a foreign-owned company for what may be the first time in our nation’s history…

The land grab was sneakily anti-democratic even by congressional standards. For more than a decade, the parcel containing Oak Flat has been coveted by Rio Tinto, Resolution’s parent company — which already mines on its own private land in the surrounding area — for the high-value ores beneath it.

The swap — which will trade 5,300 acres of private parcels owned by the company to the Forest Service and give 2,400 acres including Oak Flat to Resolution so that it can mine the land without oversight — had been attempted multiple times by Arizona members of Congress on behalf of the company. – Among those involved was Rick Renzi, a former Republican representative who was sent to federal prison in February for three years for corruption related to earlier versions of the land-transfer deal. – It always failed in Congress because of lack of support. But this time was different. This time, the giveaway language was slipped onto the defense bill by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona at the 11th hour. The tactic was successful only because, like most last-minute riders, it bypassed public scrutiny.

It’s worth noting that Rio Tinto affiliates have been McCain campaign contributors, and that Mr. Flake, before he made it to Congress, was a paid lobbyist for Rio Tinto Rössing Uranium (a huge uranium mine in Namibia). Mr. McCain and others assert that the mining project will be a boost to the local economy, though it’s unclear how many of the 1,400 promised jobs would be local; a Superior-area miners’ group, in fact, opposes the swap on the basis that it won’t help the local people or economy…

If Oak Flat were a Christian holy site, or for that matter Jewish or Muslim, no senator who wished to remain in office would dare to sneak a backdoor deal for its destruction into a spending bill — no matter what mining-company profits or jobs might result. But this is Indian religion. Clearly the Arizona congressional delegation isn’t afraid of a couple of million conquered natives.

Apparently, Arizona’s paid Congressional pimps don’t feel they’re in any danger for being the liars they are. Both Flake and McCain beat their breasts in declaration of their faith in democracy. Yet, when push comes to shove, when the almighty dollar comes to call, they rollover and slide a slimy rider like this through on the back of one of our sacred military-industrial welfare bills. No debate. No discussion. We give you the land. You keep on making campaign contributions.

9 thoughts on “Arizona’s senators sold out the Apaches to their favorite mining company

  1. Rize or Die says:

    “Native American Activists Literally Chase John McCain Off Navajo Land” On Friday, August 14, Arizona Senator John McCain was confronted several times by Native activists and elders while visiting the Navajo Nation as a result of his role in passing the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange bill as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 (article includes video of the incidents). “Despite the senator’s office later denying that the protesters had any “practical impact” on his meeting, it is clear that a new community of Native activists is on the rise. This is only the latest in the reemergence of an active resistance to the colonization of Native peoples and First Nations.”

  2. Update says:

    “Known to the Apache people as Chich’il Biłdagoteel, Oak Flat, about 65 miles due east of Phoenix, and its surrounding lands sit atop one of the planet’s largest remaining copper deposits.
    Resolution Copper, a mining company owned by British-Australian firms Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, wants to extract that copper using a technique known as block cave mining. Tunneling underneath the vein causes the ore to collapse into pre-excavated funnels and access tunnels, which miners use to extract the ore. The mine information site Geo Engineer says that block cave mining costs can be much as 90% less than conventional methods.
    But the process would obliterate Oak Flat, and opponents fear the mine could also collapse nearby U.S. Highway 60 and Apache Leap. The mine would also require a tailings facility to store the toxic leftovers, most likely in a wash that’s part of the Gila River watershed. That particular facility would require a dam nearly 600 feet, or 60 stories, high.”
    “Tribal and local activists air concerns about Resolution copper mine at Oak Flat for congressional subcommittee”
    Rio Tinto, the world’s second largest miner, allocated $302 million to advance its Resolution copper project in Arizona last year. The funds were to be used to bank-roll additional drilling, ore-body studies, infrastructure improvements and permitting activities needed to advance the project to the final stage of the permitting phase, Rio said in a statement.
    Rio Tinto CEO resigns under pressure from investors after destruction of 46,000-year-old sacred Indigenous site to expand an iron ore mine in Australia “The destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves went ahead on May 24 despite a seven-year battle by the local custodians of the land, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, to protect the site. Rio Tinto apologized in June.”
    “Rio Shakeout Shows How Powerful Investor Advocacy Has Become”

  3. Bilagáana says:

    “A judge heard oral arguments Wednesday in a case involving Oak Flat, a section of the Tonto National Forest that could become one of the largest copper mines in the United States.
    Critics of the mine say that environmental review was fast-tracked during the Trump administration.
    The judge said he hopes to rule on the case Feb. 12.”
    Re: Apache Stronghold, San Carlos, Arizona see

  4. Mike says:

    The Tonto National Forest has rescinded its earlier environmental impact statement that gave a green light to a land exchange that would have allowed Resolution Copper to excavate a mine at Oak Flat. See also KNAU and Felicia Fonseca’s Associated Press story.

  5. Update says:

    “The U.S. House Committee for Indigenous people held hearings Tuesday on Congressman Raul Grijalva’s bill to permanently protect Oak Flat from a proposed copper mine.”
    “Arizona mayor, tribal officials spar over bill to stop Oak Flat mine east of Phoenix”
    “…Their testimony came as the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples of the United States considered a bill by Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, that would repeal a portion of the fiscal 2015 Defense budget known as the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange.
    That language, added at the last minute in December 2014 as an amendment to the must-pass budget bill, set in motion the transfer of 5,459 acres of land in the area from Resolution Copper to the federal government in exchange for 2,422 acres of copper-rich federal land.”

    16 USC 539p: Southeast Arizona land exchange and conservation

  6. Update says:

    On Friday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments by Apache Stronghold, a grassroots group that sued the federal government in January to stop a handover of one of the Apache peoples’ most sacred sites to a mining company.
    The group’s attorney argued that the mine would obliterate Oak Flat and irrevocably deprive Apaches of a sacred site, a church that has been a center of worship since long before the birth of the United States. And, he said, the destruction of the site would imperil the Apaches’ religion and deprive them of their First Amendment rights of the free exercise of their religious beliefs.
    The government’s attorney argued, among other points, that federal law outweighs the U.S.’s trust obligation to the tribe.
    The hearing was the latest chapter in a 17-year-old effort by Indigenous peoples and their allies to preserve the site and prevent it from becoming a 2-mile-long crater.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.