Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

September 2, 2019

URGENT! Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Oak Flat 'Terrifying'

Photo by Christine Prat


"They declared war on our religion, we must stand in unity and fight to the very end, for this is a holy war." Apache Wendsler Nosie, Sr.

By Christine Prat
Censored News

According to the site of the USDA, the Tonto National Forest is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for two actions relating to Resolution Copper mining project and a "land exchange" for the land that would be seized from Oak Flat. The actions are indicated on the site of the USDA:

Resolution Copper Project and Land Exchange Environmental Impact Statement
"Approving a general plan of operations submitted by Resolution Copper Mining, LLC, which would govern surface disturbance on National Forest System (NFS) lands from mining operations that are reasonably incident to extraction, transportation, and processing of copper and molybdenum.
The mine proposal would create one of the largest copper mines in the United States, with an estimated surface disturbance of 6,951 acres (approximately 11 square miles).
It also would be one of the deepest mines in the United States, with mine workings extending 7,000 feet beneath the surface.

Facilitating a land exchange of the Oak Flat Federal Parcel (2,422 acres of NFS land) for eight parcels located throughout Arizona (5,376 acres of private land currently owned by Resolution Copper) as directed by Section 3003 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2015."

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was released on August 9, 2019. The journalist Elizabeth Whitman wrote an article published in the Phoenix New Times on August 14, 2019, under the title:


Although the USDA claims on its site that the release of "the DEIS initiates a 90-day public comment period – from August 10 through November 7, 2019," it has been said recently that the Forest Service was pushing to change the law to the effect that public comment won't be necessary anymore. It would make the Forest Service the sole authority deciding to allow companies to destroy any land they want to plunder. In present circumstances, the Forest Service still has to produce the EIS and issue a draft Record of Decision (ROD), and the project for this to happen in summer 2020. The final ROD is supposed to be issued in winter 2020/2021. According to the USDA site, "The Land Exchange will be fully executed no later than 60 days after the release of the Final EIS".


Human Rights, Religious Rights have been Violated

The greatest sin of the World has been enacted by Arizona Senator McCain, Senator Flake, and Representatives Kirkpatrick and Gosar of Arizona by including the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange in the National Defense Authorization Act (2015). We are calling on all religious faiths, & military veterans, for this country was founded on freedom of speech, religion and worship, which has been given away to a foreign mining company.

"They declared war on our religion, we must stand in unity and fight to the very end, for this is a holy war."

Wendsler Nosie Sr., longtime opponent of Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and former Chairman and Councilman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe.

"We remember those who sacrificed and defended our people. We recognize our great leaders and their respect for those who know freedom. We must guide our people to, once again, hold our destiny in our own hands. I challenge each of us to overcome the oppression and begin the process of believing in ourselves."

This must be the first step... Usen, we ask for your blessing to guide our current and future leadership so that our children and the unborn will inherit our Apache Way of Life." - Wendsler Nosie Sr.

For the Apache from the San Carlos Reservation, Oak Flat [Chi'Ch'il Bildagoteel] is sacred. It includes the cliff called 'Apache Leap', from which about 70 Apaches are said to have jumped to their death rather that surrender to the Cavalry, some 100 years ago. Oak Flat is also a place for ceremonies, especially for young women's coming-of-age ceremony. “This is the place where our religion originated,” said Naelyn Pike, an activist in Apache Stronghold and Wendsler Nosie Sr.'s grand-daughter, quoted by the site of 'Sacred Land Film Project', “Who are we without these sacred places?”

Oak Flat is also a place where people come to observe rare species of birds, that exist nowhere else. It is also the main training place for alpinists from the whole United States and generally used as a recreational area.

A decree of President Eisenhower of 1955 closed Oak Flat for mining and designated the surrounding area as public land… under the mandate of the U.S. Forest Service. The decree was reaffirmed in 1971.

In 2014, the Senator and ex-President candidate John McCain managed to slip an article about Oak Flat "land exchange" into a military spending bill that had to pass at any cost. McCain had promised the land to Rio Tinto, one of the main contributors to McCain's campaign. Rio Tinto, founded in Canada in 1873, is now, after multiple mergers, a British Company. Under the name Resolution Copper, it is supposed to develop the project together (for 45%) with the Australian Company BHP.

Since then, resistance never ceased. The Apache were joined by environmentalist organizations and residents of the area.

The release of the DEIS made the fears more urgent. In her article published on August 14, 2019 in the Phoenix New Times, Elizabeth Whitman writes: "[The crater] would be relatively small at first, and then it would expand. By Year 41, the crater would grow to about 1.8 miles wide, and it would collapse to depths of 800 to 1,115 feet, taking Oak Flat […] with it." She adds "Meanwhile, the toxic, ugly tailings left from extracting 40 billion pounds of copper from 1.4 billion tons of ore would be dumped and supposedly contained — somehow, somewhere — in the vicinity of Superior, about an hour east of Phoenix. Gradually, contaminated water would leak into the surrounding environment." Moreover, she wrote, " the operations could consume more than two Apache Lakes' worth of water transported from the Colorado River and pulled from precious groundwater supplies, changing the flow of surrounding rivers and springs." Of course, the habitats of endangered species would be disturbed, maybe destroyed.

Resistance will increase. Critics say that they will need more time to study all the details of the report. Roger Featherstone, director of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, added, according to Elizabeth Whitman's article "We'll tear that document apart and prepare our own detailed comments. We'll be active in all the public meetings; we'll have our own meetings. So, there will be a lot of activity over the next few months,"

Read more in Elizabeth Whitman's article in the Phoenix New Times.

The Apache from San Carlos needs your support. People who care for the environment need your support. Go to the Apache Stronghold site!


Elizabeth Whitman, Phoenix New Times, August 14, 2019

Apache Stronghold

Sacred Land Film Project

USDA site particularly Resolution Copper Project and Land Exchange Environmental Impact Statement

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