December 5, 2012

On November 30, Rio Tinto announced that unless the US Congress passes the Oak Flat land exchange immediately, they will lay off 80% of their workforce at Oak Flat between now and March.  In an orchestrated fashion, Senator McCain and Congressman Gosar both urged the Congress to pass the land exchange this year and an AZ Republic Op-ed decried Senate inaction.

Since Rio Tinto has made similar statement during every Congressional season since the land exchange has been introduced, organizations opposing the land exchange have blasted the announcement.

A joint press release from the San Carlos Apache Tribe, The Concerned Citizens and Retired Miners Coalition, and the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition was released today.

San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler pointed out, “Resolution Copper made the very same claim in 2007 when its President John Rickus told the Tucson Citizen it would not invest more money in the project unless the land swap was approved by Congress, and that the 400 person workforce would have to be cut,” continued Chairman Rambler. “But the real cost of this bill is not jobs. The real costs are desecration and destruction of one of our most important sacred sites, and the very real and great potential for disastrous harm to our environment including Arizona’s precious water supplies.”

“What Resolution and its political allies don’t tell you is the land exchange sidesteps critical safeguards provided by other federal laws,” said Roy Chavez of Concerned Citizens and Retired Miners Coalition which also opposes the land exchange.  “Senators Kyl and McCain should be cautious. If passed, this bill may leave Arizona with a superfund site of unprecedented magnitude, and a clean up bill for the American taxpayers costing billions of dollars. That would be a most unfortunate legacy for the Senators.”

Roger Featherstone, Director of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, cited more reasons the exchange is bad policy. “This would be the first piece of federal legislation that would turn over a Native American sacred site on public land to a foreign mining company. It would mandate the largest loss of rock climbing lands on public lands in US history; and it would privatize a campground that has been off limits to mining since 1955.”

The Arizona Mining Reform Coalition released a statement calling the announcement by Rio Tinto “shameful.”

The Arizona Republic wrote a typically biased story slated toward Rio Tinto, but also carried a good Letter to the Editor today.  In These Times blogged about the announcement.