The San Carlos Apache Tribe is battling to save a sacred site that has been federally protected from mining since 1955.
That is, until now. Lawmakers have slipped a clause into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would allow for a land swap, giving Resolution Copper Inc. 2,400 acres of copper-containing land in return for 5,300 acres of substandard land scattered throughout southeast Arizona.
Problem is, it lies right on a scenic—and did we mention sacred?—recreation area set aside by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who specified that it be protected from mining: Oak Flat, Devil’s Canyon, and Apache Leap. It is not only sacred to the San Carlos Apaches and related tribes but also would be subject to a technique called block cave mining. This method involves removing underground rock, thus creating the potential for a cave-in or landslide, as occurred last year at a Resolution Copper-controlled mine in Utah. In other words, it could completely destroy the site as well as crucial wildlife habitat, opponents say.
The land-swap attempt has been floating around for a few years now, but the defense bill tactic could push it through. This short film profiles the area, the reasons that Eisenhower designated it as protected, and the potential outcome if the mining project is allowed to go forward.
In addition the production company posts updates on the case on its YouTube page. The latest salvo, which is Republican Senator John McCain’s insertion of the swap into the defense bill, has its counterpoint in the recent nomination of Oak Flat for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
A White House petition begun by San Carlos Apache Chairman Terry Rambler has garnered 49,468 as of 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday December 10. It needs 50,532 more to reach the petitioners’ goal of 100,000 by January 3, 2015.