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Deep Green Resistance Southwest April News Roundup

Protect Pinyon-Juniper Forests Campaign

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Photo Credit: Ray Bloxham/SUWA showing the aftermath of treatments in the Modena Canyon Wildlands.

Deep Green Resistance and WildLands Defense are advocating for a moratorium on all pinyon-juniper deforestation in the Great Basin and we need your help. Pinyon-juniper forests are being wantonly killed as weeds while their inherent ecological value is summarily ignored. These forests store carbon dioxide, dampen climate change, provide crucial wildlife habitat, protect watersheds, and have helped humans survive in the Great Basin for millennia. A moratorium gives us time to marshall our resources to put this destruction to a permanent end.

See for yourself the destruction of Pinyon-Juniper forests and then join the fight.

Don’t let them destroy these forests! Sign our petition here.

Also join us to ask BLM to stop clearcutting pinyon-juniper forests.

3/25/2016 The Language of Pinyon-Juniper Trees
2/3/2016 BLM & the Ranching Industry: a History of Collusion
1/5/2016 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: BLM’s False Claim to Virtue
12/13/2015 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: The Oldest Refugee Crisis
12/1/2015 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: An Ancient Vision Disturbed

Follow our Protect Pinyon-Juniper Forests campaign on Facebook for more updates.

Sacred Waters, Sacred Forests

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

A Gathering for Celebration, Community, Movement Building, Ecology, and Land Defense

Join us in May of 2016 for a tour of sacred lands threatened by the proposed Southern Nevada Water Authority groundwater pipeline. We will spend three days visiting the communities affected by the water grab, learning about the project and the threatened sacred lands and waters. For those already familiar, we’ll also be holding workshops on the ecology and politics of the region at a basecamp in Spring Valley. The tour will begin at Cleve Creek campground, 12 miles north of Highway 6-50 at the base of the Schell Creek Mountains.

The SNWA water grab is a prime example of how civilizations (cultures based on cities, as opposed to cultures based on perpetual care of their landbases, without resource drawdown) inevitably destroy the planet. A bloated power center, ruled by the ultra-rich and served by an underclass of poorly-paid workers, bolstered by bought-and-paid-for politicians (see Harry Reid) and misused public tax dollars,  reaches out and takes what it wants from the countryside.

One of the developers who wants the water grab has described the Mojave desert around Las Vegas as “flat desert stuff.”  They call living land a wasteland to justify its continuing plunder.  To indigenous peoples—Shoshone, Paiute, and Goshute—the land and water are sacred.

Anyone who respects land and visits this place will fall in love with it.  That’s the purpose of the Sacred Water Tour, an annual gathering organized by Deep Green Resistance for the past three years.  In coordination with local activists and indigenous people, the public is welcomed every Memorial Day weekend to tour the region.

Resistance Radio: Derrick Jensen interviews Max Wilbert about the SNWA water grab
2015 Sacred Water Tour: Sacred Water Under Threat
2014 Sacred Water Tour: Report-Back
Groundwater Pipeline Threatens Great Basin Desert, Indigenous Groups
Follow our Stop the SNWA Water Grab campaign page on Facebook for more updates


Regional News

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Image: Cone-shaped solar flux of high intensity as in the above 50 kiloWatt per square meter diagram, at Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System during operation.

Follow the DGR Southwest Coalition Facebook page for more news.


Deep Green Resistance News Service Excerpts

Derrick Jensen: When I Dream of a Planet In Recovery

The time after is a time of magic. Not the magic of parlor tricks, not the magic of smoke and mirrors, distractions that point one’s attention away from the real action. No, this magic is the real action. This magic is the embodied intelligence of the world and its members. This magic is the rough skin of sharks without which they would not swim so fast, so powerfully. This magic is the long tongues of butterflies and the flowers who welcome them. This magic is the brilliance of fruits and berries who grow to be eaten by those who then distribute their seeds along with the nutrients necessary for new growth. This magic is the work of fungi who join trees and mammals and bacteria to create a forest. This magic is the billions of beings in a handful of soil. This magic is the billions of beings who live inside you, who make it possible for you to live.

Derrick Jensen: Not In My Name

Let me say upfront: I like fun, and I like sex. But I’m sick to death of hearing that we need to make environmentalism fun and sexy. The notion is wrongheaded, disrespectful to the human and nonhuman victims of this culture, an enormous distraction that wastes time and energy we don’t have and undermines whatever slight chance we do have of developing the effective resistance required to stop this culture from killing the planet. The fact that so many people routinely call for environmentalism to be more fun and more sexy reveals not only the weakness of our movement but also the utter lack of seriousness with which even many activists approach the problems we face. When it comes to stopping the murder of the planet, too many environmentalists act more like they’re planning a party than building a movement.

Sustaining a Strategic Feminist Movement

At the core of this movement, there is an intangible force with a measurable impact. It’s an attitude, a mindset, a determination that compels us to push back against oppression. It’s the warrior mindset, the stand-and-fight stance of someone defending her home and the ones she loves.

Many burn with righteous anger. This is important – anger lets us know when people are hurting us and the ones we love. It’s part of the process of healing from trauma. Anger can rouse us from depression and move us past denial and bargaining. It is a step toward acceptance and taking action.

Rewriting the trauma script includes asserting our truth and lived experiences, and naming abuses instead of glossing over them. It includes discovering (and rediscovering) that we can rely on each other instead of on men. It’s mustering the courage to confront male violence. But it’s not going to be easy.

Ben Barker: Masculinity is Not Revolutionary

To be masculine, “to be a man,” says writer Robert Jensen in his phenomenal book, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, “…is a bad trade. When we become men—when we accept the idea that there is something called masculinity to which we could conform—we exchange those aspects of ourselves that make life worth living for an endless struggle for power that, in the end, is illusory and destructive not only to others but to ourselves.” Masculinity’s destructiveness manifests in men’s violence against women and men’s violence against the world. Feminist writer and activist Lierre Keith notes, “Men become ‘real men’ by breaking boundaries, whether it’s the sexual boundaries of women, the cultural boundaries of other peoples, the political boundaries of other nations, the genetic boundaries of species, the biological boundaries of living communities, or the physical boundaries of the atom itself.”

Too often, politically radical communities or subcultures that, in most cases, rigorously challenge the legitimacy of systems of power, somehow can’t find room in their analysis for the system of gender. Beyond that, many of these groups actively embrace male domination—patriarchy, the ruling religion of the dominant culture—though they may not say this forthright, with claims of “anti-sexism.” Or sexism may simply not ever be a topic of conversation at all. Either way, male privilege goes unchallenged, while public celebrations of the sadism and boundary-breaking inherent in masculinity remain the norm.

Film Review: The Wind that Shakes the Barley

All people interested in a living planet–and the resistance movement it will take to make that a reality–should watch this film. The courage found within every one forming their amazing culture of resistance–militant and non; including those who set up alternative courts, sang traditional songs and speak the traditional Gaelic language, open their homes for members of the resistance–is more than i have ever experienced, yet exactly what is needed in our current crisis. Those who fought back endured torture, murder, and the destruction of their communities. Yet, they still fought because they were guided by love and by what is right.


 

Deep Green Resistance: a quote from the book

In blunt terms, industrialization is a process of taking entire communi­ties of living beings and turning them into commodities and dead zones. Could it be done more “efficiently”? Sure, we could use a little less fossil fuels, but it still ends in the same wastelands of land, water, and sky. We could stretch this endgame out another twenty years, but the planet still dies. Trace every industrial artifact back to its source­ which isn’t hard, as they all leave trails of blood-and you find the same devastation: mining, clear-cuts, dams, agriculture. And now tar sands, mountaintop removal, wind farms (which might better be called dead bird and bat farms). No amount of renewables is going to make up for the fossil fuels or change the nature of the extraction, both of which are prerequisites for this way of life. Neither fossil fuels nor extracted substances will ever be sustainable; by definition, they will run out. Bringing a cloth shopping bag to the store, even if you walk there in your Global Warming Flip-Flops, will not stop the tar sands. But since these actions also won’t disrupt anyone’s life, they’re declared both real­istic and successful.

 


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PROTECT OAK FLAT: SAVING APACHE SACRED GROUNDS

Editor’s Note: This video, PROTECT OAK FLAT: SAVING APACHE SACRED GROUNDS, was produced by Paper Rocket Productions on Vimeo.  This is the accompanying text, also by Paper Rocket Productions:

For nearly a decade, Resolution Copper Mining, a subsidiary of British-Australian mining conglomerate Rio Tinto, had unsuccessfully sought ownership of Oak Flat Campground.
Yet, on December 19, 2014, with the help of Senator John McCain, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013 resurfaced within the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and was successfully passed by the Senate and signed off by President Obama .
The new legislation will open up Oak Flat for copper mining.

As part of the deal, Resolution Copper will swap roughly 7.8 square miles of land scattered across Arizona for roughly 3.8 square miles of Tonto National Forest, which includes Oak Flat.

Resolution Copper is required to work with the U.S. Forest Service to do an environmental impact study, however, they are guaranteed to get the land, regardless of what the study shows.

Also, the company has chosen a cheaper method of extraction called block cave mining. The aftermath of the mining will result in a crater two miles wide and up to 1,000 feet deep, destroying the surface of the land as well as generate nearly a cubic mile of mine waste.

Protect Sacred Sites
Special Thanks to:
Wendsler Nosie Sr.
John Mendez
Naelyn Pike

And all our Apache and Diné Relatives
Ahé éhé

Hundreds Gather at Oak Flat to Fight for Sacred Apache Land

As the morning sun rose high enough to burn off the chilly overnight temperatures, mesquite fires scattered throughout the Oak Flats Campground offered a warm welcome to a special day for Arizona’s San Carlos Apache tribe.

Michael Paul Hill/Facebook Protesters gathered for a day of spiritual succor at Oak Flat, the sacred Apache site that was all but handed over to Resolution Copper in the latest must-pass federal defense-spending bill.

Michael Paul Hill/Facebook
Protesters gathered for a day of spiritual succor at Oak Flat, the sacred Apache site that was all but handed over to Resolution Copper in the latest must-pass federal defense-spending bill.

Some 300 tribal members and supporters from across the country had gathered to protest the infringement of traditional Apache holy lands. There were Chippewa, Navajo, Lumbi, Pauite, Havasupai, and representatives of the National American Indian Movement and the National American Indian Veterans group, as well as non-indigenous supporters representing myriad concerns including those of environmentalists and other lovers of nature. All were furious at Congress’s sneaky transfer of sacred Apache land to a mining company and vowing to do what they could to see that it didn’t happen.

“What was once a struggle to protect our most sacred site is now a battle,” said San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler, organizer of the grassroots movement aimed at stopping transfer of hundreds of acres of ceremonial land to those who would dig a mile-wide hole in the ground in a search for copper.

RELATED:  San Carlos Apache Would Get Biggest Shaft Ever in Copper Mine Land Swap

San Carlos Apache Leader Seeks Senate Defeat of Copper Mine on Sacred Land

Arizona’s Apache Tribe represents a culturally rich society with heritage tied to Mother Earth. As a people, they extend a Hon Dah welcome greeting to all who wish to share their culture and history. But now they are fighting to keep their holy lands culturally sacrosanct.

“Our homelands continue to be taken away,” said former San Carlos Chairman Wendsler Nosie Sr., decrying what he termed the dirty way in which a land-swap rider had been attached to a must-pass bill that sailed through Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The amended legislation, with the support of Arizona Senator John McCain, was “an action that constitutes a holy war, where tribes must stand in unity and fight to the very end,” according to Nosie.

The legislation that the former chairman termed “the greatest sin of the world” is the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act, which gives a 2,400-acre tribally sacred site to a global mining entity, Resolution Copper, that wants to destroy its natural state with a massive mine intended to extract an ore body located 7,000 feet below ground level. That ground is hallowed to the Apache peoples whose reservation border is just east of the proposed mine at Oak Flat, home to Indigenous Peoples since prehistoric times, a place where acorns and medicinal herbs are gathered and coming-of-age ceremonies are held.

Kicked off by earlier protests in both Tucson and outside Senator McCain’s Phoenix office, the multi-pronged awareness approach to mitigate the potential fate of Oak Flat picked up momentum via a two-day, 44-mile, march from the San Carlos tribal headquarters and culminated in a weekend-long Gathering of Nations Holy Ground Ceremony, “A Spiritual Journey to a Sacred Unity,” at Oak Flat.

Following a holy ground blessing, the morning was filled with traditional, cultural and religious dances, with Rambler dancing and Wendsler joining the group of drummers. The weekend of solidarity was epitomized by guest speaker and activist preacher John Mendez.

“What the system doesn’t know, what Resolution Copper doesn’t know, is there is nothing that can break our spirit and keep us from moving forward to victory,” Mendez told the assembled. “This is a protracted struggle, but if we stay true to task, we will win. A single flame can start a large fire, and we’ve created a fire that cannot be extinguished.”

The Apache struggle has become part of the ongoing battle worldwide for Indigenous Peoples protecting sites that are sacred to them because of the places’ importance to both spiritual and physical survival.

“This issue is among the many challenges the Apache people face in trying to protect their way of life,” Chairman Rambler told Indian Country Today. “At the heart of it is freedom of religion, the ability to pray within an environment created for the Apache. Not a manmade church, but like our ancestors have believed since time immemorial, praying in an environment that our creator god gave us. At the heart of this is where Apaches go to pray—and the best way for that to continue to happen is to keep this place from becoming private land.”

RELATED: San Carlos Apache Leader: ‘What Was a Struggle to Protect Our Most Sacred Site Is Now a Battle’

Yavapai-Apache Chairman: ‘Oak Flat Holy Sites are Central to Apache Spiritual Beliefs’

Spiritual Unity Can Save Sacred Apache Land From Mining

Despite Obama’s signature on the measure, the administration has expressed displeasure as to how the legislation flew under the radar to become law.

“I am profoundly disappointed with the provision of the bill that has no regard for lands considered sacred by nearby Indian tribes,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

The passage has created numerous schisms.

“The nearly decade-long fight over access to the federally protected land has ignited a feud that has split families and ended lifelong friendships,” the Los Angeles Times noted.

It also has united those who oppose Rambler, and the ongoing, nearly 10-year-old struggle has garnered support from more than 500 tribes, many who face similar situations with mining or development proposed in areas that other Native Americans consider holy. If this can happen to the Apache nation, it can happen to any other nation was the general feeling.

“We have a similar situation with an effort to build a tramway down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon,” said Lorenzo Robbins, a Navajo from Northern Arizona.

“We’re fighting a strong battle to protect Mother Earth from uranium mining,” said Uqalla, a member of the Havasupai tribe. “The responsibility of all indigenous spiritual carriers is to protect the earth.”

Rambler, welcoming the support, said it is indeed everyone’s battle.

“We must stand together and fight,” Rambler said. “We’re drawing a line in the sand on this one. We’re against this specific project because it’s going to desecrate and destroy this whole area and the Apache way of life we are accustomed to.

“This gathering and our direction in the future is to keep an awareness of the situation in the public mind, in the mind of Congress, and to let everyone know this issue is not going to go away,” Rambler said. “We need to stay on top of it every day to make sure our voices are heard. We’re praying to our creator god, asking him to guide us throughout this whole process so that we can win in the end and preserve what he created for us.”

Video: What Resolution Copper Wants to Inflict on Apache Sacred Land

 

 

Washington Post: Proposed Oak Flat copper mine debate

When former miner Roy Chavez heard about plans to develop the nation’s largest copper mine near Superior, Ariz., he thought it might be the salvation of the economically struggling town where he’d grown up and served as mayor.

But as he learned more about the proposal to tap an ore body more than 7,000 feet deep with a method known as “block cave” mining, he changed his mind. Now he fears that the project would be environmentally destructive and limit Superior’s ability to develop tourism and other industries.

“Mining is the nature of the beast in this area. I support the industry and the livelihood it provides,” said Chavez, who comes from a mining family and worked in the Magma Copper mine nearby until it closed in 1996. “But there’s a situation here with this project that just doesn’t sit well with us.”

Resolution Copper Mining, a firm owned by subsidiaries of international mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, is seeking a land swap with the federal government that would give it ownership of 2,400 acres in the Tonto National Forest, where the rich mineral vein was discovered a decade ago. In return, Resolution Copper would give the public more than 5,500 acres of land it owns in various parcels around the region.

But the land the company wants to mine includes popular rock-climbing areas and Oak Flat Campground, which President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955 designated off-limits to mining. Native American tribes consider much of the area sacred, and they worry about earth caving in and damaging landmarks such as Apache Leap, where warriors are said to have jumped to their deaths rather than surrender to Arizona soldiers. The proposed mining area is also home to at least one federally listed endangered species, the Arizona hedgehog cactus.

Resolution Copper says the mine would become the country’s largest source of copper – supplying half a billion tons a year and meeting a fifth of national demand for 50 years. It would also employ 1,400 people on-site during peak operations, for an estimated total economic impact of $46.4 billion during its 66-year lifetime, according to the company.

To secure the land swap, Arizona Sens. John McCain (R) and Jon Kyl (R) introduced legislation in 2009.Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) added authorization of the deal to the America’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010, an omnibus lands bill that was pulled in late December in the face of Republican opposition.

[Editor’s Note: The Washington Post added this correction: “This article…incorrectly said that Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) had added authorization of the deal to the America’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010, a bill that was pulled in late December in the face of Republican opposition. The provision was not in the bill as it was introduced, but it was in a draft version that was leaked and publicized by opponents of the land swap in early December 2010.”]

While McCain’s 2009 bill would have basically ensured the land transfer, Reid’s would have authorized the land swap with final approval contingent on the environmental assessment process mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act and approval from the secretary of the interior.

Jon Cherry, Resolution Copper vice president for legal, external and environmental affairs, said the company is confident legislation similar to Reid’s bill will pass in 2011. Along with McCain and Kyl, Rep.-elect Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) supports the project and recently toured the mine site.

‘This is a mining town’

Superior Mayor Michael Hing said the mine would make a “night and day” difference for the town that he’s watched shrink to less than half its former size – currently about 3,200 residents – since the Magma mine closed. Hing’s grandfather came to the area from China in the 1920s to start small businesses serving miners.

“We’ve been through the ups and downs of the boom times, when strikes happened, when mines shut down,” he said. “This has always been our livelihood. This is a mining town. That’s why we live here.”

But Chavez, who now works as a planning consultant and owns a bar, and other opponents say the mine would destroy the landscape, severely affect tourism and potentially contaminate groundwater. They are particularly concerned about the block-cave method, which involves blasting a space below the ore body and using gravity to harvest the ore. This leaves large empty cavities underground. There are several other block-cave copper mines in the region, 60 miles east of Phoenix, causing the surface to collapse and crack in some areas.

In an e-mail, Cherry said the company is doing studies to ensure that groundwater will not be contaminated and that natural features such as Apache Leap will not be harmed. He said the mine would increase rather than reduce tourism, and that part of the land swap involves the company transferring land ideal for rock climbing to the public.

“The mine itself, when it’s operational, presents an attractive tourist destination,” Cherry said. “We approach our project development with a long view where the mine serves as a sustainable environmental, economic and social stimulus locally even after it closes.”

Mine opponents note that the U.S. Forest Service regularly grants mining concessions on public land and say Resolution Copper should seek one rather than taking ownership of the land. They fear that if Resolution Copper owns the land, environmental impact studies will be less comprehensive and not open to public scrutiny.

Cherry said the company needs the land swap to carry out the environmental assessments and petition for permission to mine. Resolution Copper has launched a social media campaign to build public support for the land transfer, including YouTube videos and Facebook groups. Cherry said company polling showed more than 80 percent of locals support the mine.

Public vs. private

But Daniel Patterson, a Democratic state representative out of Tucson and southwest director for the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said Arizonans are wary of privatizing public land.

“This is a state with a substantial amount of mining, but also where people generally value public lands and want to make sure corporations aren’t ripping us off,” said Patterson, who formerly worked as an ecologist for the Bureau of Land Management. “This is a corporate giveaway. There is a lot of skepticism over the fairness – taking it to Washington, D.C., rather than really analyzing it on the ground.”

Nyal J. Niemuth, chief mining engineer for the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources – a state agency that promotes mining – said the Resolution Copper project would “be like the Super Bowl,” invigorating the industry statewide for decades. He said the ore body’s discovery a decade ago has prompted significant exploration – and economic infusion – as mining companies “are trying to duplicate the find, though no one has yet.”

He called environmental and recreational concerns misguided in a state that has staked its identity on mining for more than a century.

A report from the Arizona Mining Association says the industry had $3 billion in statewide direct economic impact in 2009 – employing 9,100 people, paying $151 million to state and local governments and spending more than $2 billion on goods and services from Arizona businesses.

“This is a bright spot in our otherwise dismal Arizona economy,” Niemuth said, adding that it is especially important since the economic crisis chilled residential development. “We’re not pounding a lot of nails out here, but we live in a very complicated world. Some people want jobs; other people . . . want to oppose things.”

President Obama signs land exchange into law signaling new phase in the protection of Oak Flat

By the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition

On December 19, 2014, President Obama signed the National defense Authorization Act into law.  The bill contained the Oak Flat land exchange.  This particular version of the land exchange was the 13th since the bill was first introduced in Congress by convicted former Congressman, Rick Renzi in 2005.  Senator Flake, who previously worked for Rio Tinto at their uranium mine (co-owned by the Iranian government) in Namibia, acknowledged what we all knew, the bill could not pass the US Congress on its own merits.

This is the culmination of 10 years of work by Arizona’s Senators and some Congressmen at the behest of Rio Tinto and represents a huge Christmas present for the international mining giant.  However, the bill’s passing is a lump of coal in the stocking of all Arizonians.  Senators McCain, and Flake did their best to subvert the will not only of Native American Tribes, conservation organizations, the Superior Town Council, and others, but the will of the United States Congress who has forcefully rejected the land exchange for nearly 10 years.

This new version of the bill does not turn over Oak Flat to Rio Tinto until 60 days after the publishing of a Final Environmental Impact Statement.  While this represents a major departure from normal procedure and limits any ability to mitigate or say no to the proposed mine, it does allow additional time, as the US Forest Service will go through the motions of conducting the process mandated by the National Environmental Policy act (NEPA). This process will take years and will allow opportunities for this mistake to be rectified.  Until that time, Oak Flat remains public land owned by all Americans free to be enjoyed and celebrated by all.

Rio Tinto and its supporters would like to think that this dirty underhanded deal will make our opposition go away, but nothing will be further from the truth.  Rio Tinto has finally shown how much it cares for the rule and process of law.  Like a schoolyard bully, Rio Tinto threw a tantrum until it finally got its way.  But in the process, the company showed its true colors.  Folks from all walks of life and from across this great nation and indeed, the world, are rising up against this miscarriage of justice and are clamoring to help us protect Oak Flat.

The passage of the land exchange marks the end of but one phase of our struggle to protect Oak Flat.  We have many avenues to protect Oak Flat and we will travel them all until we succeed.

Interior Secretary Jewell was very disappointed in the passage of the land exchange and said, “I am profoundly disappointed with the Resolution Copper provision, which has no regard for lands considered sacred by nearby Indian tribes. The provision short circuits the long-standing and fundamental practice of pursuing meaningful government-to-government consultation with the 566 federally recognized tribes with whom we have a unique legal and trust responsibility.”

“Although there are consultation requirements in the legislation, the appropriate time for honoring our government-to-government relationship with tribes is before legislating issues of this magnitude. The tribe’s sacred land has now been placed in great jeopardy.”

In a guest editorial in the Arizona Republic, James Anaya, the former United Nations Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, condemned the passage of the land exchange, saying, “it represents a shameful circumventing of democratic process in the face of environmental concerns and potential violations of the religious and cultural rights of the Apache people.”

These and many other powerful and well-spoken people are clear in their displeasure over Rio Tinto’s actions.

Arizona copper mine will hurt tribes and the environment

By James Anaya, for AZ Central

James Anaya: Rio Tinto should make some lands off limits to mining and abandon the project if it can’t gain local support.

Congress recently authorized an exchange of land so the multinational giant Rio Tinto can proceed with its Resolution Copper Mine project in eastern Arizona. The land to be conveyed to the company was taken from the Apache people more than a century ago, but Apache today continue to claim strong cultural and religious ties to the land.

The congressional authorization can be seen as a victory for the foreign-owned mining company. At the same time, it represents a shameful circumventing of democratic process in the face of environmental concerns and potential violations of the religious and cultural rights of the Apache people.

The San Carlos Apache Tribe, with numerous other Indian tribes across the country, had successfully opposed stand-alone legislation for the land swap because of these fundamental human-rights concerns. Leaders in Superior had voted to revoke support for the mine.

The mining company, however, convinced key members of the Arizona congressional delegation to authorize the land swap through an amendment buried in the must-pass National Defense Appropriations Act.

The new legislation does not make the land swap immediately effective. Several steps will have to be completed, including an extensive process of environmental review and consultations. Still, it makes the land swap and eventual mining appear to be a foregone conclusion.

Proponents of the mine, including Sen. John McCain, have stressed that the project will lead to needed jobs and generate significant economic activity. But whether or not the American people or Arizonans will fairly benefit economically in comparison with what the foreign company will profit remains highly debatable.

In any case, most Americans understand that the prospect of jobs or economic gain for some cannot alone carry the day, lest all those places rich in natural or cultural bounty that have been set aside as national treasures would be at risk.

The owners of the Resolution Mine project, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, subscribe to guidelines adopted by the International Council on Mining and Metals establishing, in keeping with United Nations standards, that mining companies should work to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples and ensure full respect for their rights, as preconditions to the implementation of mining projects that affect them.

Rio Tinto, especially, has worked to follow these guidelines with a number of its projects around the world, building what many human rights and environmental advocates consider to be good practices.

But the land swap authorization for Resolution Mine was not predicated on the San Carlos Apache’s consent or widespread local support. Instead, the congressional authorization came amid continuing disagreement about the environmental and cultural impacts of the land swap and eventual mining, through a truncated legislative process that altogether avoided confronting the points of disagreement.

Any chances of now meeting local concerns and coming to an agreement with the tribe have been severely damaged.

The only way that those chances might be bettered is for the company to make clear it understands that some places, because of their religious or cultural significance or environmental sensitivities, are simply off limits to mining, and to commit to refraining from moving forward with the land swap or any mining without broad local community support and agreement with the tribe.

The company should be prepared to alter its planned land swap and mining activity, or altogether abandon it, if the company cannot obtain the social license that broad local support and agreement with the tribe would provide.

S. James Anaya is a Regents’ Professor at the University of Arizona Rogers College of Law. He served as the United Nations Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples from 2008 to 2014.