Friday, June 22, 2007

Arizona tribes unite against mine

[Source: J. Craig Anderson, Tribune] -- American Indians from several Arizona tribes set aside centuries-old differences to speak in unison Wednesday against a plan to mine copper underneath land that San Carlos Apache leaders say has been part of their religious and cultural activities since time immemorial. But San Carlos tribal council Chairman Wendsler Nosie isn’t expecting unity among the tribes to keep government and copper mining interests at bay. That’s why the tribe has hired a Scottsdale lawyer and plans to fight for the 3,000 acres of Tonto National Forest (pictured) subject to a proposed federal land exchange with Resolution Copper Mining, the Arizona joint subsidiary of Britain’s Rio Tinto and Australia’s BHP Billiton.

“This has unified the tribes to start defending the land,” Nosie said. “We’re looking forward to the days to come.” A protest and blessing ceremony on Wednesday at Oak Flat campground near Superior drew about 300 American Indians from six tribes and their supporters — an event that tribal leaders say has not happened in Arizona’s modern history. The mining company’s plan for Superior involves opening the most productive copper mine in North America and pumping 1.8 billion gallons of treated wastewater from previous mining operations into an irrigation district between Florence and Queen Creek. Culling pure copper from the new mine’s underground ore deposit would require an additional 6.5 billion gallons of water each year. The proposed mine “is exclusively driven by the need to obtain the greatest profit for its mostly foreign shareholders,” according to a joint resolution addressed to President Bush and signed Wednesday by leaders of the San Carlos Apache, White Mountain Apache, Camp Verde Yavapai Apache, Tonto Apache, Hopi and Hualapai tribes. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]