14 Apr, 2024
2 mins read

Tribe warns US government against moving ahead with mine

PHOENIX (AP) — Native American tribal members fighting plans for an enormous copper mine on land they consider sacred saying they are increasingly worried US officials will publish an environmental review paving the way for the project even as they await a federal appeals court ruling in the case.

A US government attorney said during last month’s hearing of a full panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that the final environmental impact study for construction of the mine at Oak Flat, Arizona, could be published this spring.

San Carlos Apache Tribe Chairman Terry Rambler said during a visit last week that US Forest Service officials confirmed plans to push forward on publication of the environmental analysis. That step would kick off a 60-day period culminating in a land swap allowing the project to go forward.

“Obliterating Oak Flat for a copper mine will be a grave human rights violation against Indigenous people and an environmental catastrophe,” Rambler said in a written statement this week. “The Biden Administration’s commitment to Indian Country will be seriously eroded if it approves this mine.”

Apache Stronghold, a group composed of San Carlos Apache members and others, wants to halt the land swap while the case plays out in court. The panel of 11 judges on the appeals court is expected to issue a decision in the next few months.

Apache Stronghold sued the US government under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect the land known as Chi’chil Bildagoteel, an area of ​​ancient oaks and traditional plants the San Carlos Apaches consider important for their ceremonies at Oak Flat in the Tonto National Forest about 70 miles (110 kilometers) east of Phoenix.

The Forest Service is now revising the environmental analysis, “which is expected to be completed in the coming months,” national

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