The San Carlos Apache and their Tribal and non-profit allies have been fighting tirelessly for decades to save their sacred site of Chi’chil Bildagoteel, also known as Oak Flat, within the Tonto National Forest in Arizona. Their commitment, perseverance, and courage have managed to stave off the rapacious appetites of multinational mining company Rio Tinto, which has already desecrated a 28,000-year-old Aboriginal site in Australia.
We now have the opportunity to permanently overturn the 2014 midnight rider that authorized the transfer of public and sacred lands to Rio Tinto. In March, Representative Raúl Grijalva introduced the Save Oak Flat Act to protect this sacred Indigenous site from being destroyed by a massive copper mine and Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
It’s long overdue that we uphold the treaty rights and federal trust responsibilities promised to the original inhabitants of this country and overturning the 2014 rider that gave an Indigenous sacred site to a multinational mining corporation would be a significant step in the right direction. Write your members of Congress today.
Rio Tinto’s subsidiary, Resolution Copper, is proposing the use of block cave mining at Oak Flat, a type of underground mining that will collapse the land surface and leave a crater nearly two miles wide and over 1,000 feet deep. That’s in addition to the 1.4 billion tons of toxic waste the mine would produce, which would be dumped into the fragile desert ecosystem, likely ending up in the ground and surface water.
The mine will also require upwards of 250 billion gallons of water—that’s the equivalent of a football field filled with water, 147 miles high. The American Southwest is already deeply mired in a water crisis. We cannot afford to continue to promote and prioritize these kinds of water-intensive extractive industries at the expense of the health and resilience of the human and non-human communities who must rely on the land and its water long after the copper has run dry.
Ask your members of Congress to support the Save Oak Flat Act. This is our chance to demonstrate our commitment to Tribal sovereignty, ecological integrity, and the rich and powerful space where the two intersect.