Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Protect the Sacred: #saveoakflat

Art by Urban Native Era

The story of Oak Flat and the Resolution Mining Company is an old tale with a new setting:  Big Government and Big Business come together to take something that they want from people who don't have the resources to fight them.  The area of the Oak Flat Campground, located about an hour east of Phoenix, is public land, under the multiple-use mandate of the National Forest Service.

Photo credit:  KNAU  (Great article about Oak Flat)

Photo credit:  Arizona Mining Reform Coalition

It has had special protections since 1955, when President Dwight Eisenhower decreed the area closed to mining because of its importance to the Apache Nation, especially the San Carlos Tribe, and to campers, hikers and rock climbers. President Richard Nixon’s Interior Department renewed the ban in 1971.

The Resolution Trust Company, has attempted a land swap several different times, which will trade 5,300 acres of private parcels owned by the company to the Forest Service and give 2,400 acres including Oak Flat to Resolution so it can mine for copper.  By using the block cave mining technique, the site will be ruined forever.  A vast chamber will be hollowed out and when it caves in, a two-mile wide, 1,000 foot deep pit will be left behind.  According to congressional testimony by the Society of American Archaeology, there is abundant evidence that the Apache have been there "since well before recorded history".  All that will be obliterated by the giant crater.
example of a block cave mine in Oregon

These land swap attempts have been unsuccessful before.  But in December, 2014, Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake were able to insert a last minute rider into the must-pass Defense Appropriation Bill granting the title of Oak Flat and the surrounding area to Rio Tinto, Resolution Trust's parent company.  And in these types of stories, you should always follow the money.  From the NY Times:  "it’s worth noting that Rio Tinto affiliates have been McCain campaign contributors, and that Mr. Flake, before he made it to Congress, was a paid lobbyist for Rio Tinto Rössing Uranium (a huge uranium mine in Namibia)."

Fortunately, there are those trying to repeal this land grab.   Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva, of the Congressional Natural Resources Committee, introduced the “Save Oak Flat Act,”  on June 17, 2015.  It would  repeal the rider slipped in by McCain and Flake and return protection to Oak Flat, Apache Leap and other sacred sites.  Please contact your congressional representatives, senators and the White House.  If you would like to sign the Arizona Mining Reform petition, you can do that here.

This is not a political blog. But this story is so outrageously unfair, that I had to share it.  If you follow me on Instagram, I have been posting pics and art relating to the #saveoakflat movement.  This David and Goliath tale screams of everything that is wrong with our political system, no matter what side of the aisle you find yourself on.  I hope that you will stand with these Native people and say "Enough".  Let's keep Goliath from winning this one.

If you want to join up or just encourage the caravan heading to Washington DC, here is the list of events:
courtesy of Apache Stronghold

I'm going to leave you with a beautiful video of this area and what we stand to lose as Americans if it is destroyed by mining.


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