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Rio Tinto copper mine threatens Apache sacred land

Darby Ingram -

In its last days, the Trump administration is rushing to approve large-scale mining and energy projects on Apache sacred lands.

Rio Tinto, who is responsible for the destruction of a 46,000-year-old Puutu Kunti Kurrama Pinikura (PKKP) sacred site, is a parent company of Resolution Copper, the mining company proposing the project.

In Arizona, the Forest Service is preparing to approve the transfer of thousands of acres of federal forest land to allow construction of the nation's largest copper mine.

The Apache and their allies have concerns that the project will not be in a respectful and culturally safe manner.

The Apache have held religious and cultural ceremonies on Oak Flat for centuries. The site is home to Apache burial grounds, sacred sites, petroglyphs, medicinal plants and traditional foods.

The Forest Service's environmental impact report outlined that the mine has a high risk of affecting sacred places.

"[It has a] high directly, adversely and permanently affect...places and experiences of high spiritual and other value to tribal members," the report stated.

The mine will create a crater roughly two miles wide and one thousand feet deep. It will potentially destroy Oak Flat, eliminating the habitat of species that call Oak flat home and contaminating water supplies in Arizona.

Wendsler Nosie Sr, a leader at Apache Stronghold which is an organisation resisting the proposed mine told it is a collective fight.

"We were in the fourth quarter with two minutes left in the game and then Trump cheated so now we only have one-minute left. Everybody has to fight this," he said.

An environmental review was scheduled for completion in December 2021, however has been rushed to be finalised before President-Elect Biden's inauguration.

The project, along with others, is awaiting action in the final weeks of the Trump administration.

They are supported by the Interior Department which controls 480 million acres of public lands, and the Forest Service, which manages another 193 million-acres.

The President-Elect Biden, who has chosen a Native American Representative Deb Haaland, Democrat of New Mexico, to lead the Interior Department will have the ability to reshape, slow or even block certain projects, once in office on January 20.

By Darby Ingram

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