21 Feb 2015

In Arizona, a controversial federal land swap leaves Apaches in the lurch: Why is Congress giving federally protected Arizona land sacred to the Apache to a massive mining conglomerate?

A place of great natural beauty, popular among rock climbers and campers, a part of Tonto National Forest known as Oak Flat has been under federal protection from mining since 1955, by special order of President Eisenhower.
On the nearby San Carlos Apache reservation, many consider Oak Flat to be sacred, ancestral land – the home of one of their gods and the site of traditional Apache ceremonies.
But Oak Flat also sits on top of one of the world’s largest deposits of copper ore. Resolution Copper Mining, a subsidiary of British-Australian mining conglomerate Rio Tinto, has sought ownership of the land for a decade, lobbying Congress to enact special legislation on its behalf more than a dozen times since 2005.
Year after year the bills failed to pass. But in December, the legislation was  was quietly passed into law as part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. Arizona Sen. John McCain, who has long championed the deal, said the land exchange would “maintain the strength of the most technologically advanced military in the world” since copper is the second-most-utilized mineral by the Department of Defense.
As part of the deal, Resolution Copper will swap roughly 7.8 square miles of land scattered across Arizona for roughly 3.8 square miles of Tonto National Forest, which includes Oak Flat. The new legislation will open up Oak Flat for copper mining.
But critics say the move allows the company to privatize the land and make an end run around critical environmental and cultural protections. What’s more Resolution Copper can’t promise that any of the copper produced by the mine will remain in the United States – which raises the question: How does this help national defense?

‘A bad feeling’

Apache tribal council member Wendsler Nosie Sr. has been flying to Washington, D.C., to fight the land exchange for years. But this time, he said he could tell something was different. Tribal representatives were in the Capitol for the annual White House Tribal Conference when he heard the news. 
“We got wind that there might be some movements happening in Washington,” he said. “It was a bad feeling because when I got there, you knew something was moving, where you were asking questions night and day but nobody was giving us a definite answer.”
Negotiated behind closed doors and with no public discussion, details of the land swap were first revealed shortly before midnight, the day before the 1,600-page defense bill was up for consideration in the House of Representatives. A day later, the bill passed the House.
For Nosie, the story was all too familiar. Historical records show that vast amounts of land once under Apache control were carved out of the reservation by the U.S. government to enable mining at the turn of the century. Private companies extracted a fortune in minerals with minimal benefit to the tribe.
“Look at all the mines here already,” Nosie said. “Look at all the things they took from us. Seventy percent unemployment, that already tells you where it's going. It's not going to benefit anybody here. What's going to be left is contamination.”
Arizona is one of the most heavily mined states in the country and a major copper producer. The Government Accountability Office estimates that there are roughly 50,000 abandoned hard rock mining sites in the state, contributing to environmental problems such as contaminated water and soil. 


  1. A rational sane adult would recognize you CANNOT give away/swap/sell/trade something that DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU! ITS CALLED THEFT!

  2. freewheelinfranklin54321 February 2015 at 13:13

    This sucks!

  3. Another scam just wait till Hillary gets cheated into office you aint seen nothin yet.

  4. Another case of John McCain looking after the interest of a bunch of foreigners over his own people in Arizona. John McCain is the number one receiver of AIPAC money and he has delivered war after war for the nation who is number four for making war machines. They also make a ton of money selling off the military equipment that the USA gives them.

  5. Corporations and their quisling servants like McCain are at war with us and we don't even realize it !
    Wait till TPP is signed...taxpayers will be sued for stopping Rio Tinto from making a profit !
    google that shit !

  6. Because that's America, the State built on stolen land thanks to genocide and slavery and segregation.