Press Release


Nancy Freeman
Groundwater Awareness League

Arizona Tribes Defy Congress

It’s a red flag. A mining company, is getting U. S. Congress to pass an act, so that the company can mine public land that was set aside by President Eisenhower in 1955 for its uniqueness and recreational use.

As if that is not enough, the mining company is trading that public land for private parcels—to change the status, so that it will become private. Why would a mining company prefer to mine on private land? it means the mining company can avoid the public process that is mandated under the National Environmental Policy Act.

A coalition of six Arizona Native American tribes has tried to circumvent the Congressional Act, which all but two Arizona Congressmen are sponsoring. The tribes have sent a letter to President Bush requesting that he continue the special status accorded to Oak Flats by then President Eisenhower and to protect their historical site of Apache Leap.

The problem is that when the white government created the Native Americans reservations, they often did not include their traditional sacred places. Since the white man does not honor the spirits of the ancestors, nor does the white man respect the elders, we do not understand the significance of the Native American cultural sites.

However, we do honor our heroes: Little Big Horn, where Custer lost his life, is now a National Monument. So the Arizona tribes are wondering how white man justifies turning a traditional site in Native American history over to the mining industry to be desecrated?

The beginning story of Apache Leap is the usual scenario. Calvary troops were hunting down the Indians to incarcerate them. But the end of the story created heroes. Some 75 Apache warriors were cornered on a large rock ledge. Rather than surrender, the warriors leaped off the cliff to their deaths. This cliff has been named “Apache Leap.” One holds one’s breath when passing that route—knowing the price that 75 warriors paid for freedom. Incidentally, “Apache tears,” that is, chips of black obsidian, are found in the area.

There has been an element of betrayal since the onset of the project. The Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society—and Arizona Representative Renzi— helped pick the private lands for Resolution Copper to buy and swap for the prime public land. The worst of it is the plots of land are abandoned overgrazed ranches with no aesthetic value whatsoever. Whereas, the beauty of the public land is in plain view from Highway 60 as it winds along the chasm cut out by Queen Creek. Sycamores stud its rocky banks with craggy mountains as the backdrop. Oak Flat Campground and climbing areas will be lost and Queen Creek could be dewatered.

Another red flag is that the company, Resolution Copper, has never done any actual mining. The company was formed by Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, both with the worst possible environmental records. Rio Tinto is the parent of Kennecott—the creator of the biggest sulfate plume in U.S. near Salt Lake. UT. BHP Billition has had so many complaints that even their stockholders are calling them to account.

Of course, the mantra of “jobs above all else” is touted by government officials, including Arizona Governor Napolitano, as an excuse for the destruction of the area. But they don’t have the facts. There are 700 mining job openings with a 25 mile radius. Another 500 jobs only 5 miles away at the new Carlota mine will be posted by the end of the year. According to Mayor Hing of nearby Superior, the populace, who are supposed to benefit economically from the mine, hope to promote tourism and get out of the boom and bust cycle of mining. Those few who are qualified for mining jobs are already working at a mine only six miles away.

An online petition to President Bush and Congress has been set up so that everyone can express their support: It’s an opportunity to speak up for Native Americans and for public lands.

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