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

Congress is poised to give a foreign mining company 2,400 acres of national forest in Arizona that is cherished ancestral homeland to Apache natives. Controversially, the measure is attached to annual legislation that funds the US Defense Department.

 This week, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees quietly attached a provision to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would mandate the handover of a large tract of Tonto National Forest to Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of the Australian-English mining company Rio Tinto, which co-owns with Iran a uranium mine in Africa and which is 10-percent-owned by China.

The “Carl Levin and Howard P. ‘Buck’ McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015” - named after the retiring chairmen of the Senate and House Armed Services panels – includes the giveaway of Apache burial, medicinal, and ceremonial grounds currently within the bounds of Tonto. News of the land provision was kept under wraps until late Tuesday, when the bill was finally posted online.

The land proposed to be given to Resolution Copper, in exchange for other lands, includes prime territory Apaches have used for centuries to gather medicinal plants and acorns, and it is near a spot known as Apache Leap, a summit that Apaches jumped from to avoid being killed by settlers in the late 19th century.

Lands included in the plan will stop 1,500 feet short of Apache Leap and will not initially include an area known as Oak Flats, though, when it comes to the oaks, contradictory legal parameters are but a minor hurdle for a company like Resolution Copper to eventually drill there.

The House may vote on the NDAA as soon as this week with rules included that would bar the Senate from amending the legislation. On Wednesday night, a last-minute effort to strip the land provision from the NDAA failed in the House Rules Committee, which voted to give one hour for debate over the NDAA in the House.

Terry Rambler, chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, told The Huffington Post he was saddened by news of the proposal, yet not all that surprised.

“Of all people, Apaches and Indians should understand, because we’ve gone through this so many times in our history,” Rambler said.

“The first thing I thought about was not really today, but 50 years from now, probably after my time, if this land exchange bill goes through, the effects that my children and children’s children will be dealing with,”Rambler added.

“Since time immemorial people have gone there. That’s part of our ancestral homeland,” Rambler said.”We’ve had dancers in that area forever – sunrise dancers – and coming-of-age ceremonies for our young girls that become women. They’ll seal that off. They’ll seal us off from the acorn grounds, and the medicinal plants in the area, and our prayer areas.”

Arizona Sen. John McCain was instrumental in adding to the NDAA the land deal that had been pursued by Rio Tinto for a decade, according to HuffPo. Some in Congress were reportedly concerned with the deal, but it ultimately materialized thanks to economic assurances. Rio Tinto claims mining in Tonto will generate $61 billion in economic activity and 3,700 direct and indirect jobs over 40 years.

Rambler said whether Rio Tinto’s economic assertions are true or not, it may not matter.

“It seems like us Apaches and other Indians care more about what this type of action does to the environment and the effects it leaves behind for us, while others tend to think more about today and the promise of jobs, but not necessarily what our creator God gave to us,” he said.

Rambler said he was particularly concerned with long-term ramifications, including the company’s intent to use “block cave” mining, which means digging under the ore, causing it to collapse.

“What those mountains mean to us is that when the rain and the snow comes, it distributes it to us,”Rambler said. “It replenishes our aquifers to give us life.”

Resolution Copper has said its mining plan for the area has been filed with the National Forest Service and that it will comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that supposedly protects federal lands.

But Rambler said NEPA is no match for Resolution Copper’s intent.

“This is what will happen – the law in one area says there will be consultation, but the law in another area of the bill says the land exchange will happen within one year of enactment of this bill,” Rambler said. “So no matter what we’re doing within that one year, the consultation part won’t mean anything after one year. Because then it’s really theirs after that.”

Basically, NEPA will only protect lands that remain in federal hands. The rest is fair game, according to federal law.

“We would only have to do NEPA on any activity that would take place on remaining federal land,” said Arizona Bureau of Land Management official Carrie Templin.

The 2015 NDAA contains other land deals, including one that would subject 70,000 acres of Tongass National Forest in Alaska to logging and another provision that would give 1,600 acres from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State for purposes of industrial development, a plan that has spurred tribal protest.


Responses to "Congress Gives Sacred Apache Land to Foreign Mining Company "


  2. Anonymous says:

    There is no doubt that John McCain would sell the traditions of real Americans for his own gain ,and to a foreign country it certainly wouldn't be the first time.

  3. Dear ones, I am from far away and would love to help.. So my first practical thought being, someone of you connected to Apache people, or whomever of American citizenship, please, please make an AVAAZ(or similar) petition campaign, and both me, and, I know it in my heart, many from across the globe will sign and stand by you in support.. Do not give up, even with few days left, with the possible support like that you(we} can still make them change their mind.,,
    With deep love and respect
    Maria Aina Motlochov√°
    PS. If you do, let me know, I will happilly "share it forward.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Un-flipping-believable! Well, no, I guess it is entirely 100% believeable in today's world. What can we do?!?! Is there a petition?

  5. Anonymous says:

    How much will the congressmen make from this deal? Did they buy up stocks or options on the company before the news came out? I thought we couldn't make deals with Iranian companies.

  6. Anonymous says:

    It is supposedly against the Constitution to sell any American owned land to a foreign entity. However Congress has been trampling on the Constitution for decades, and we the American ignorant are letting them by not posing term limits on them, and voting them back into office. It is time Americans stood up and take our country back. By force if need be. If there is a petition against this out there anywhere, I will sign it. The American Indian has suffered enough.

  7. Anonymous says:

    When you thought you heard it all, some crazed D.C. idiots pulls something like this. So now we're doing business with Iran. How can they sell or give land that isn't theirs? Doesn't it belong to the Indians? If they can't find one way to destroy the land and our country, they will come up with something else. I'm just dumbfounded!!

  8. Richard Turi says:

    The United States has 2, 379, 964, 800 acres of land within it's borders. That's two billion three hundred seventy nine million nine hundred sixty four thousand acres.At one time none of it belonged to the United States.Our elected representatives can't respect the wishes of a native tribe and a lot of very concerned people to protect 2,400 acres in the middle of nowhere but central to the lives of our first nations people? Disgraceful. Those who slipped this into the spending bill should be ashamed.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The ONLY way we are going to stop atrocities like this is to VOTE these people OUT! Take names, vote when you can and get rid of the antiquated idiots!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    How sad is this...if it were reversed would the act still occur can it happen that there is a land sale from someone's property by those who really have no right to do so and nothing one can do about it???? Sacred dare they do this .............what has happened to man's caring ways for others and respect especially for Sacred ground???? money money really worth it ?????? Prayers are being sent out for all .......???

  11. Anonymous says:

    My heart is just breaking. Breaking.

  12. Anonymous says:

    John McCain has no shame nor does he have a consciousness about anyone except another capitalist pig like himself who wants to cut a deal
    to further increase his bank accounts.
    I hope history is being recorded here cause when the am err I can people begin to wake from their drugged stupor, this transaction that McCain is responsible for will have cause major grief & havoc.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Don't forget, Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick co-sponsored the legislation. I wish they hadn't done this. also, the land wasn't owned by the belonged to the National Forrest Service.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Why cant they well enough alone greed and and more greed This land is sacred to the Apaches they should be left alone they suffered enough already.

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