It might seem a little bit dramatic, but I think it’s worth explaining the severity of the issue our national lands are facing. Tonto National Forest is about to lose a huge portion of land to copper mining, land that is considered sacred to the Apache tribe.
Rio Tinto (one of Resolution Copper’s parent companies), destroyed 46,000-year-old aboriginal rock shelters in Australia’s Juukan Gorge just last year. Now they have plans to do the same in Arizona in just a few weeks.
This holy land near Oak Flat is considered hallowed ground for the Apache people for thousands of years, it’s “the home of spiritual beings known as Ga’an. Apaches go there to pray, to seek personal cleansing and to hold ceremonies that connect them to their ancestors,” (NBC News). One of the largest reserves of copper in the world lies below this space, but the land is not always meant to be drained of all resources for the profit of a few.
While the proposed mining area is less than four square miles, “[e]nvironmentalists and Native Americans are concerned about the toxic waste that would be dumped on nearby wildlands, the potential for groundwater contamination and the destruction of sacred sites,” (ABC News). Supporters argue that this new site could bring in 1,500 jobs and as much as a $61 billion impact over the course of the project, but at what cost?
The Oak Flat area is also a popular destination for hiking and camping. It’s an amazing place to soak in the grandeur of the Tonto National Forest, and allowing Rio Tinto to mine will sever access to many of these trails and campgrounds.
Arizona is known for its wildernesses. There’s a reason it’s such an amazing state for hiking, camping, and exploring. Allowing large, foreign corporations to profit at the expense of the land will open up future projects such as this one, further decimating these incredible landscapes and historic preservations. We have a responsibility as Arizonians to keep our state wild and to protect the land we so love. We cannot continue to destroy our Earth and expect to avoid the repercussions.
There are a few ways we can help. Websites like Save Oak Flat and Earthworks are full of resources that provide more information and ways to help. These include sending a letter to a congressman (here is a list of Congressional leaders deemed sympathetic to the Oak Flat cause), donating to one of the funds, or signing the petition.
Thank you everyone for your help in our efforts to save this sacred and special land!