Roger Featherstone, Director, Arizona Mining Reform Coalition (520) 777-9500; firstname.lastname@example.org
July 18, 2022
The Arizona Mining Reform Coalition has and will continue to pursue multiple avenues to block construction of the proposed Resolution Copper Mine despite a June 24, 2022, federal appeals court decision rejecting an Apache grassroots group’s lawsuit seeking to stop the mine on religious freedom grounds.
“The 9th Circuit Court ruling does not advance the proposed Resolution Copper mine in the slightest. Until the US Forest Service completes and releases a new Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), the land transfer cannot happen,” said Roger Featherstone, Arizona Mining Reform Coalition Director. “It is unfortunate that the 9th Circuit court ruled as it did and we feel that the Apache Stronghold has a strong chance to prevail should the Supreme Court hear their case.”
When the first fatally flawed FEIS was released in January of 2021, the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, the Inter Tribal Association of Arizona, Earthworks, the Center for Biological Diversity, Access Fund, and the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club sued the Forest Service. Another lawsuit was filed by the San Carlos Apache Tribe. Our lawsuit and the Tribe’s lawsuits are currently on hold, but will become active again when the new FEIS is released. It is unclear when the new FEIS will be released, but it likely will not happen until this fall at the earliest.
Regardless of the end result of the Apache Stronghold’s case, there are two other formidable lawsuits the US Government will need to overcome before the project could happen. In addition, there are a number of other avenues for halting this failing experiment.
One cannot forget that Rio Tinto and BHP both promised the world that they would never again allow the destruction of an indigenous sacred place after Rio Tinto blew up sacred rock shelters in Australia for a mine expansion — the Resolution Copper mining plan would do exactly that.
With Arizona in the middle of the worst drought we’ve faced in 1,200 years, there is not enough water for this project unless farmers, communities, our public lands, and other industries give up water to allow this project.
And, Rio Tinto and BHP have not made a final decision on whether to continue the project and will not do so until they complete a feasibility study.
“One can hope that Rio Tinto and BHP would stop bullying citizens of Arizona to force through this failed experiment and end the proposed project before irretrievable damage occurs,” Director Featherstone said.
Oak Flat has been used for centuries by Apache and other Native people for ceremony, sustenance and habitation, and ceremonies are still conducted there. Many tribes consider it sacred. Oak Flat is also a popular campground and recreation area, with stunning scenery and world-renowned rock climbing. It and the surrounding lands are important habitat for a diverse array of wildlife, including migratory and endangered birds as well as endangered plants and fish.
The Resolution Copper proposal would be a large underground block cave mine that would mostly destroy 16,000 acres of federal, state and private land. The mine would be under Oak Flat and would cause the surface above it to collapse into a crater more than a mile wide and 1,000 feet deep, which would completely decimate the area. The 1.4 billion tons of toxic waste the mine would produce would be dumped on thousands of acres of nearby wildlands, turning a vibrant landscape into an industrial wasteland and threatening to contaminate groundwater and surface water in the area. The mine would use a vast amount of groundwater annually, equal to the amount used by the entire city of Tempe, Arizona. Resolution Copper is owned by BHP and Rio Tinto, the world’s largest mining companies based in England and Australia.
The lawsuit filed by the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition and other conservation and Tribal NGOs is: Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, et. al. v. U.S. Forest Service., et al., No. 21-CV-00122-PHXDL. Judge Douglas L. Rayes of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona is presiding. The plaintiffs are represented by the Western Mining Action Project, a public-interest law firm specializing in mining issues in the West.
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