Next Step Set For This Month In Oak Flat Copper Mine Deal

By Katherine Davis-Young
Published: Tuesday, December 1, 2020 - 2:57pm

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Oak Flat
Mariana Dale/KJZZ
The sign to the Oak Flat campground from the US 60.

The fight over a proposed copper mine in the area of Tonto National Forest known as Oak Flat continues. Activists say the transfer of land to the mining company is being accelerated in the final days of the Trump administration. 

Oak Flat is a sacred site for the San Carlos Apache. In a recent video message, Wendsler Nosie Sr. with Apache Stronghold, the activist group opposed to the project, said time is running out to keep the site from being turned into one of the largest copper mines in the country.

Earth+Bone
Laurel Morales/KJZZ
Wendsler Nosie

“We are at a crucial period and it’s going to take everything that we can to stop this land exchange," Nosie said. 

On its website, Resolution Copper says it is “committed to preserving Native American cultural heritage.”

But a draft environmental impact statement for the project says the mine has “very high potential to directly, adversely, and permanently affect numerous cultural artifacts.”

The Forest Service had planned to release the final environmental impact statement for the project at the end of 2021. That date was recently moved to this month. Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva told KJZZ the federal government is cutting corners.

“By the rush we would run out of time and they would have had the deal cut and it would be very difficult for us to undo it after it’s done," Grijalva said.

Grijalva is sponsoring a bill to stop the land transfer.

“It’s so contrived and it’s so dangerous to rush this without having an opportunity not only for Congress to know about the consequences, but for the American people to know about it,” Grijalva said. 

The Forest Service says the project is not being accelerated and timeline changes simply reflect variables in the time it took to complete steps in the review process.

→ Former San Carlos Apache Chairman Walking To Ancestral Land To Protect It From Mine

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