The Battle of Oak Flats – The Fight For Sacred Apache Land

Image Credit: Arizona Lincoln

Image Credit: Arizona Lincoln

San Carlos Apache Reservation, Arizona (TFC) – The Battle of Oak Flats sounds like it could be the name of a historic battle from back in the old days, like in the 1800’s when the white man was pushing his way west and pushing the Native-American tribes anywhere he could. However, this name is not from a historic battle, this is happening in 2015.The largest mining company in the world is set to start destroying some of the most beautiful country in the southwestern desert and the company isn’t even from here.

The battle that is going on in Oak Flats is a growing protest, but like a great deal of the things we should really be hearing more about, this particular story has had very little press and certainly none from the mainstream media. In fact it’s almost as though there is a gag order or a straight-up media black out.

A little bit of background on the sacred piece of ground called Oak Flats just a little east of Phoenix, close to the town of Superior, Arizona is that it has been a spiritual sanctuary for the Apache tribe for several centuries. But underneath that beautiful landscape sits some of the most valuable copper in North America, if not the world. It is estimated that the mining operation would yield over a billion (yes with a B) pounds of copper per year.

Now for the sake of argument I suppose you could say that mining for it would be good for the economy. Sure it would provide some jobs but the reality is that other than the creation of a negligible amount of jobs, the companies that are hellbent on raping and pillaging that territory are from Australia and Great Britain! Those companies, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, also have a long history of not playing nice with the environment, in fact a quick Google search of them will bring up a laundry list of lawsuits including accusations of crimes against humanity, War crimes and Racial discrimination just to mention a very few. Read HERE, HERE and HERE to get started.

Image Credit: Joey Montoya

Image Credit: Joey Montoya

So how did a company with this sort of track record against mother earth gain access to these pristine lands in Arizona? For over a decade they tried to get their hands on the rights to mine the area but they were never able to get them. Back in 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower had set aside this land that is sacred to the San Carlos Apache and designated it as off-limits to mining. So they (the company) crafted a devious plan. Resolution Copper Mining, a joint-venture between British-Australian mining conglomerate Rio Tinto and Australian land-rapers BHP Billiton began buying up other lands in Arizona that were deemed “environmentally sensitive”, 5,344 acres to be specific. Then a deal was proposed in 2009 by Arizona Democratic representative Ann Kirkpatrick, John McCain and others by introducing legislation in Congress to complete a land swap which would in effect give the 5,344 acres up in exchange for the 2,422 in Tonto National Forest, which includes Oak Flats, with perhaps 40 Billion pounds of copper below it.

Even though the amount of acreage that Resolution Copper was offering was more than twice the acreage they were asking for, the land they offered had no where near the value of the Oak Flats property. A battle ensued and the deal was stalled but in December of 2014, to the utter dismay of all of those that had fought for this ground, the United States Congress passed and President Obama signed off on the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which included the provisions of the stalled Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act. With the stroke of a pen, Obama gave the okay to a foreign conglomerate to come in and destroy what has been there for eons. The Conservation Act that he signed cleared the way for the land swap that Arizona politicians including John McCain and Resolution Copper had been wringing their greedy little hands over for nearly a decade.

This deal opens up Oak Flats for copper mining and puts in jeopardy the steep cliffs at Apache Leap that are a world class climbing destination, the prehistoric sites all through the area and, of course, the Oak Flat Campground itself which is dotted with petroglyphs and contains so much of the area’s history as well as the incredible spiritual significance to the local tribe.

Another area of great concern is the method of which Resolution Copper will extract the copper. The company decided to use a cheaper and environmentally controversial process called block cave mining that will most likely leave a crater up to two miles wide and up to a 1,000 feet in depth. This will for all intents and purposes destroy the surface of the land in addition to creating approximately one cubic mile of mine waste. Resolution Copper details on their own website how they will proceed with the excavation click HERE to view.

Supporters have been camping out in Oak Flats Campground since at least December as part of #OperationOakFlats to keep the mining from starting up the operations and to show support. While you will not hear about this story on mainstream media, supporters of this cause can be found on Twitter using hashtags #ApacheStronghold and #SaveOakFlats and on the Saving Oak Flats Facebook page.

Below you find two Youtube videos that cover the subject beautifully.



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