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Apache Resistance to Copper Mining in Arizona

Indigenous people have been resisting colonization on this continent for more than 500 years. The stench of empire has littered what’s become the southwestern US for hundreds of years and continues to hold an eerie presence today. In the midst of an 1870 battle, US Calvary forced Apache warriors to the edge of a cliff. With the taste of defeat in their mouths standing eye-to-eye with their possible captors’, more than 80 Apache warriors escaped, leaping off the cliff and through the air to their deaths. These days at the base of that mountain chunks of obsidian can be found. They are known as the tears of the Apaches. Apache Leap, that battlefield of the past is once again the stage for a war against accelerated colonization.

What do you think of when you hear the word “copper”? For Freeport McMoRan and Rio Tinto, profits probably spring to mind. For a brain-washed green capitalist, you might think of solar panels. If you are indigenous to West Papua you probably think of death, war and suffering.

In Superior Arizona San Carlos Apaches are facing the profit driven attack of on their land from Superior Arizona based company Resolution Copper (RC). RC has their mind set on passing legislation to create the largest Copper Mine of North America on Sacred Apache land.

Sparred in 1955 through Public Land Order 1229, the Apache Leap, Gaan Canyon and Oak Flat areas of Arizona are now under speculation of being reopened for mining. The piece-of-trash legislation, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2009, introduced by Senators John Kyl and John McCain, would allow RC owned by infamous multinational mining company Rio Tinto to sink it’s teeth into this sacred land. Possibly, the grossest part of all of this is the complete lack of accountability RC is taking from the get-go.

RC has openly admitted to the fact that their process of mining would create significant land subsidence. The ambiguousness of the bill leaves an open playing field for destruction with no end.  Without the necessary research, there is no telling what extent the land subsidence will occur at—And what current co-existing parts of the ecosystem will be lost in the process of their mining.

The bill would allow RC to move forward with the project, void of any research on the blight it would cause. There is no discussion of water resource use, acquisition or disposal for the proposed mine at Oak Flat. The drilling of wells for water use with the mine would throw central eastern Arizona’s water table into a blur of instabilities in an area that is already has severe water problems.

Freeport McMoRan has been targeted with arson, roadside bombs and blockades since the 1970s when they first began mining in West Papua. Connecting the dots from Resolution Copper to Freeport McMoRan and Rio Tinto is necessary to understand the level of blatant coercion, destruction of land and outright murder that is commonly associated with their mining projects. In 2003, news surfaced that Freeport Indonesia had paid more than $11 million to the Indonesian army for “security” at it’s mine in West Papua. In efforts to ensure the mine operates fluidly, the Indonesian government began a heavy campaign of murder, political assassination, imprisonment, rape and torture.

After controlling West Papua through acts of insurgency, the Indonesian government came up with an act of free choice format for voting. This was only after notable international pressure to allow West Papua to decide their sovereignty (after having it stolen from them by Indonesia.)  The chosen electoral process of the Indonesian government involved kidnapping selected male body indigenous people, then torturing them at gunpoint and holding them for days until they would vote for Indonesian control. How is this related to mining in Arizona? Because as you read this the same company is once again working in concert with the US government to push another mine on another group of indigenous people. Since the initial Indonesian takeover, the US has leaked documents admitting a pro-Indonesian takeover was inevitable.

The areas in danger of being mined have been sacred Apache land for ages. Apaches use the land of Oak flat to harvest acorns, which is part of their natural diet and their religious traditions. RC’s legislation would require Apaches to obtain a permit to continue the traditional bond they share with the Oak Flat region. Even more appalling is the fact that the current legislation would not allow any challenging to the use of Apache Leap for mining. It actually almost asserts the fact that RCM project would destroy Apache Leap.

Past all of the questionable legal and environmental objectives lies the glaring threat of sacred Apache land possibly being further colonized. Not only would this land be stolen from the Apaches, RC’s current ambiguous plans would sacrilegiously render these lands unrecognizable. There is a monumental need for solidarity work to be done with this project. The same people who are killing Indigenous people across the world for resources such as copper and gold now have their sights set on the Apache land. The time to act is now!

See these pages for more information:

Article from Wendsler Noise

Arizona Mining Reform


Oak Flat Apache Leap Statement

Tucson Audubon Society

5 Comments leave one →
  1. nix permalink
    January 23, 2010 10:11 pm

    in presskott we’re having a learn-in in late feb about the copper mine.
    was fantasizing about someone to come and speak here in prescot to help get us all educated about this.. we can most likley round up funds from the school to help get a speaker out here.. hopefully the event in feb will generate some passion sparks and we’ll have a good audience..
    do you have any reccomendations, or are any of y’all intrested? it will probably take a month to get funds appropriated.
    northern homeis

  2. larry tice permalink
    November 19, 2011 6:08 am

    This is indeed a priceless, irreplacable treasure I hiked into a couple of weeks ago — it must have been an Apache “heaven.” I’m always mindful of these sacred places and try to be as quiet and show respect by a proper attitude and always pick up trash left primarily by
    The “white trash” tribe which has absolutey no connection to the living earth.
    Another example of politics bought and payed for by big multinational mining conglomerates — federal land, the
    Peoples land bought right out from under us! And of course as usual the indigenious people stand to lose the
    I’m ready to stand with those oppossed to this proposal.


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