Rio Tinto and BHP – Billiton have created a subsidiary called Resolution Copper that is proposing to mine a rich copper vein more than 7,000 feet deep just east of Superior, Arizona and an hour east of Phoenix, Arizona.  They have pressured some members of the Arizona Congressional delegation to introduce a land exchange bill that would privatize Oak Flat campground and surrounding public land.  President Eisenhower placed the campground off limits to mining in 1955.  Oak Flat is a Native American sacred site and it critical for the religious freedom of Arizona Tribes.  Oak Flat is a prime recreation area, especially for rock climbing and bouldering with more than 2,500 established climbing routes.  Oak Flat is also a rare desert riparian area and in Arizona, less than 10% of this type of habitat remains.  The land exchange would allow mining companies to avoid following our nation’s environmental and cultural laws and would bypass the permitting process all other mines in the country have followed.  It is the only bill in front of the US Congress that would privatize a Native American sacred site on public land.  It would mean the largest loss of rock climbing on public lands ever, and would bypass the normal process for permitting mines on public land.  Since 2005, 11 land exchange bills have been introduced and all have failed.

Concerned citizens are worried about the loss of Oak Flat Campground, a very popular recreation area.  Birders, climbers, campers, canyoneers, bikers, and hikers enjoy the area throughout the year, all of whom would be greatly harmed if these lands were forever taken from public access.  Native Americans have traditionally used the area for cultural, spiritual purposes, and for sustenance.  The land exchange would include Apache Leap, a cliff where more than 80 Apache warriors chose to leap to their deaths rather than surrender to the US calvary.

A number of resources are available to help you learn more about this issue:

HR 687 Section by Section analysis

Testimony, letters, and resolutions opposing HR 687 and/or S 339

Exaggerating the Net Economic Benefits of the Proposed Resolution Copper Mine, Superior, Arizona: A Critical Review of Resolution’s Economic Impact Analysis (A report by Dr. Tom Power commissioned by the San Carlos Apache Tribe)

Older Testimony and Letters opposing HR 1904 

Conservation and Recreation Organizations
Arizona Mining Reform Coalition
Concerned Citizens and Retired Miners Coalition
Concerned Climbers of Arizona
Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club 
Save the Scenic Santa Ritas 

Tribal Governments
Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona
San Carlos Apache Tribe
National Congress of American Indians
NCAI Letter to Senator Bingaman
Yavapai Apache Nation
Zuni Tribe
Jicarillo Apache Nation
Pascua Yaqui Tribe
Pueblo of Tesuque
United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc.
Susanville Indian Ranceria
Mescalero Apache Tribe
All Indian Pueblo Council
Navajo Nation
Shoshone-Bannock Tribe
Hopi Tribe
Tohono O’Odham Tribe
Dine` Medicine Men’s Association
Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada
Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association
Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians

Testimony opposing S 409 from the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee hearing held on June 17, 2009:

Conservation Organizations
Arizona Mining Reform Coalition Testimony (Exhibit A)
Concerned Citizens and Retired Miners Coalition Testimony (Submitted by former Mayor Roy Chavez)
Sierra Club Testimony (Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C)
Maricopa Audubon Society
Defenders of Wildlife
Western Lands Project
Arizona Zoological Society
Arizona Audubon

Tribal Governments
San Carlos Apache Tribe
Fort McDowell Yavapai Tribe
InterTribal Council of Arizona (Submitted by Governor Norman Cooeyate of the Zuni Tribe)
Jicarilla Apache Tribe
National Congress of American Indians

State of Arizona
Arizona Game & Fish Department

Other Documents

Comparison between S. 409 and HR 1904
Arizona Mining Reform Coalition Fact Sheet on HR 1904

Arizona Mining Reform Coalition Fact sheet on S. 409
Arizona Mining Reform Coalition Fact Sheet on HR 2509
Sign on letter opposing the Oak Flat land exchange
Fort McDowell Yavapai Tribe letter to President Obama
Impacts of Block Cave Mining
Biological Surveys of Gaan Canyon (Devil’s Canyon)

Obama Administration’s position on S. 409
July 13, 2009 letter to Senator Wyden from USDA Secretary Vilsack
Administration’s Response to Questions from the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee

Hojas Informativas en Español
Impactos de la Minería de la Cueva de Bloque
HR 2509 Hoja
S 409 Hoja