An op-ed by Chairman Terry Rambler.
The Jan. 21 guest opinion written by Resolution Copper Company’s project director Andrew Lye grossly misleads the public when he states that “Native American tribes are very much at the table shaping this project.”
As Chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, I unequivocally state we, along with the National Congress of Indians and the Inter-Tribal Association of Arizona (ITAA), remain vehemently opposed to the construction of the Resolution Mine 70 miles east of Phoenix. This project will desecrate Chich’il Bildagoteel, also known as Oak Flat, which is the heart of our religious and cultural beliefs.
The fact of the matter is this: There is no agreement between the Tribe and Resolution. Both the foreign mining companies and the federal government have completely ignored our grave concerns about this misguided project that would collapse Oak Flat into a 1,000 foot-deep, mile-wide crater.
Last week, we filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for its failure to follow the law in preparing a sham Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that is being used to justify trading away our sacred land within 60 days of its Jan. 15 publication. Oak Flat is currently on the Tonto National Forest and federal laws and regulations prevent it from being destroyed by mining as long as it remains public land. The Inter-Tribal Association of Arizona also intends to join environmental groups in a lawsuit opposing the mine.
The Trump Administration rushed the FEIS out the door to trigger the 60-day clock in order to trade Oak Flat, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a Cultural Property, to Resolution Copper.
Mr. Lye misleadingly states that the Resolution “is committed to ongoing engagement with Native American tribes over the coming years to seek consent, consistent” with the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM) statement on Indigenous Peoples and Mining
His statement is nothing more than window dressing to make it appear that Resolution is seeking our consent. In fact, the ICMM statement allows a convenient out if mining companies and Indigenous people disagree with the clause “government might determine that a project should proceed.”
Make no mistake, Resolution has already obtained the backing of the federal government. In a duplicitous act, a nongermane amendment was attached to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that mandated the 760 acres at Oak Flat be traded to Resolution upon publication of the FEIS, regardless of the environmental and cultural damage the mine would inflict. This rider was passed in the middle of the night, without our knowledge or consultation and without public debate.
Just as the federal government can mandate mining at Oak Flat, so can it prohibit this atrocity from occurring. Three immediate actions are needed.
First, the Biden Administration should immediately withdraw the FEIS, thereby stopping the 60-day clock for the land exchange.
Second, Congress should immediately pass legislation sponsored in the past by Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-AZ, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, to rescind the Oak Flat land exchange mandate.
And finally, we request that President Joe Biden sign this bill into law to end this affront to our religious and cultural beliefs.
To do otherwise would allow the federal government to rubber-stamp the destruction of sacred sites for the benefit of foreign companies on our homeland in Arizona.
A PDF copy of this op-ed is available for download:
Below is an editable Word document for writing to your government representatives to request their support for the Save Oak Flat Act. Be sure to fill in the blanks with the appropriate information before sending it to your representatives.