Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

February 22, 2020

While the Apache march to save Oak Flat a new land appraisal reveals public loss of more than $111 billion

While the Apache march to save Oak Flat a new land appraisal reveals public loss of more than $111 billion.

Apache marching from San Carlos to Oak Flat, February 22, 2020.  Courtesy of Dwight Metzger.

By Robin Silver
Center for Biological Diversity

A new appraisal by Josephs Appraisal Group of Phoenix reveals the lands due to be traded for Oak Flat are valued at $7.135 million, dramatically less than the $112 billion worth of the copper alone that foreign mining companies hope to remove from more than a mile below Oak Flat.  In other words, the value of the copper a mile below Oak Flat alone is worth approximately 15,700 times more than the land the foreign mining companies hope to trade for the area.

A controversial 2014 congressional legislative Rider sponsored by Senator John McCain, and Reps. Paul Gosar and Ann Kirkpatrick mandates that the area sacred to the Apache and beloved as a public, camping, and rock-climbing area near Superior would be traded away for lands owned by foreign mining companies Rio Tinto of Australia and England and BHP Billiton of Australia after a pre-approved "environmental study" provided by the mining companies and a federal appraisal.  Prior to the legislative Rider, Oak Flat was previously protected by law against damage from mining.

In August 2019, the Forest Service released the mining company's "environmental study" to clear the way for the land trade but the Forest Service has been delaying release of its appraisal to facilitate the land exchange, to cover-up the corruption of the exchange itself and to avoid the controversy of an obvious public rip off. 

The Josephs Appraisal Group of Phoenix' appraisal was commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity to circumvent these Forest Service efforts to delay production of a appraisal to benefit the foreign mining companies.
The mining companies' "environmental study" shows that the mine will produce 40 billion pounds or $112 billion worth of copper at the current price of $2.80 per pound.  This price does not account for the invaluable and irreplaceable sacred worth of the area for the Apache.

Question: What will the American public get besides loss of $112 billion?

Answer: A few temporary jobs, a crater approximately 1000 feet deep and almost two miles across, another massive toxic mining dump, more depleted and polluted water, and more cancer in local mine workers.  The total amount of habitat destroyed will be approximately 11 square miles, with the mining itself extending 7,000 feet (1.33 miles) underground.

Question: What did McCain, Gosar and Kirkpatrick sponsor such a public rip-off?

Answer: According to the Center for Responsive Politics, from the mining industry McCain received $319,267 from 2008-2014, Gosar has received $92,750 from mining industry for his career, 2009 to date.  From Rio Tinto, in 2014, Kirkpatrick received $1000.

Question: Why would McCain do this?

Answer: We will likely never know now if it was purely because of his camp following payback to the mining industry for their $320K contributions or just another of his consistent acts of puzzling animosity towards the traditional Apache where the Oak Flat was his third anti-Apache legislative rider.  McCain had already given away Apache sacred grounds with the earlier two legislative Riders giving away Forest Service land on Mount Graham (11/18/1988 and 4/26/1996 [the 1996 rider was preceded by his unsuccessful attempt in 1995 where an amendment "[d]eletes Senate language requiring the Indian Health Service to prepare a report on HIV-AIDS prevention needs, and inserts in lieu thereof a provision which allows the construction of a third telescope on Mount Graham, in the Coronado National Forest, Arizona, to proceed under the terms of the Arizona-Idaho Conservation Act of 1988, P.L. 100-696."  Call the McCain Institute for further info: 202-601-4296

Question: Why would Gosar do this?

Answer: Either camp following payback to the mining industry for their $93k contributions or a reflection of his expressed opinion of Native American as "wards of the federal government."  Call Gosar at 928-445-1683 or 202-225-2315 for more info.

Question: Why would Kirkpatrick do this?

Answer: Was it purely as camp following payback to the mining industry for their $1000 contribution?  Call Kirkpatrick at 520-881-3588 or 202-225-2542 for more info.

Robin Silver, M.D.
Co-founder and Board Member
Center for Biological Diversity
PO Box 1178
Flagstaff, AZ 86002
Phone: 602-799-3275
FAX: 928-222-0077

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