Posts Tagged ‘Oak Flat’

From Chaparral respects no borders:

(A follow-up to last year’s piece Plunder Road: CANAMEX and the Emerging Impact of NAFTA, TPP on Western North America)

The Resolution Copper land grab is also a water grab, with a projected use of millions of gallons per year and contamination of more; and during what could be a mega-drought. Water is often compared to gold as its value increases the more scarce it becomes, which means we may soon be fighting not only the increasing privatization of land, but also of water. Despite the fact that the Resolution Copper deal, having been snuck into a defense bill, involves an exchange of land, it is being done to the advantage of a transnational mining corporation and to the detriment of the Chi’Chil’Ba’Goteel/Oak Flat/Apache Leap area and the people who hold it sacred. This land grab represents a continued prioritization of economic development in so-called Arizona, which means more resource-extraction and increased international trade (specifically with or through Mexico). Mining and other industries shaped by trade-related demand bring not only risk to water, but also more roads like Interstate 11 and rail (which require land acquisition), and increased border militarization. US trade policy is largely culpable for the violence on the border and south of the border.

Economic development is portrayed as bringing more jobs, but these “free-market” policies, as in the case of NAFTA, are meant to redistribute wealth to the hands of the rich. Because of their trade relationship and connecting infrastructure, Arizona and Sonora have a shared fate as land, water, safety, indigenous ways of life and sacred sites are all at risk. The state governments enable resource-extraction and other infrastructural projects, lucrative to those who would build them and those who would finance them, through subsidization and protection with our tax dollars.

Arizona’s connection to a port in Guaymas, Sonora is crucial to the Arizona mining industry. Copper is one of the fastest growing US exports, and much of what is and would be mined in Arizona would be transported down to where mining companies such as BHP Billiton (of Resolution Copper) and Freeport McMoran do business at this Mexican port on the Sea of Cortez. Guaymas is also significant because shipping companies can have lower standards for working conditions in Mexico versus the US. This port is the southernmost point of the CANAMEX Corridor, the NAFTA trade route connecting Canada and Mexico through five US states including Arizona. The Port of Guaymas has been expanding over the years and brings along its own set of problems in the vicinity, requiring its own energy sources and water, damaging the environment, impacting the local communities, etc. Arizona is counting on the continued growth of the Mexican economy, yet the importance of the Port of Guaymas also signifies that a lot of exports from the US are meant to cross the Pacific ocean (especially if the Trans Pacific Partnership goes into effect), not stay within its favored trade partner’s borders.

The CANAMEX Corridor already exists, but will be considered complete once Interstate 11, which is in the study phase (aside from the Boulder City Bypass which is scheduled to break ground this year) has been constructed, connecting Las Vegas and Phoenix with a route fit for freight traffic. Interstate 11 may eventually refer to the entire trade corridor reaching from Mexico to Canada, or at least is intended to span from the Mexican border and beyond Las Vegas. Parts of it maybe multi-modal including rail and other infrastructure possibly including water pipeline. This massive project will cut through communities and damage the environment. Conceptualized as the entire trade corridor, it is currently also referred to as the Intermountain West Corridor–basically CANAMEX but with a more updated, more western route where it would run north of Las Vegas. South of the border, the Mexican government has recently agreed to the request by Arizona officials to improve Route 15, which is part of this Corridor, for freight traffic.


Previous, related article: "Massive mine proposed at Oak Flat, sacred tribal land"

The House of Representatives is set to vote on a bill that some say will destroy sacred ground.

A bipartisan bill introduced by Arizona Rep. Republican Paul Gosar and Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick would swap more than 2,000 acres of federal forestland in exchange for more than 5,000 acres owned by Resolution Copper Mining — a joint venture by mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

Congress may vote as early as Thursday to approve the controversial land swap, a move that is hotly contested by some Native Americans and local environmentalists.

“If you can imagine five Super Bowls in Superior every year for 60 years, that’s the level of economic boost and economic activity this mine is going to generate,” said Andrew Taplin, Resolution Copper Mining’s project director.

However, critics argue that the mine will not only alter the landscape permanently, but also be built on a Native American holy site.

“The sticking point boils down to whether international mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton should dig for copper destroying areas sacred to the Apache Tribe and enjoyed by campers, climbers, and other recreationalists,” writes Aaron Mintzes with the environmental group Earthworks, which opposes the mine.

A Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm called Mapetsi has also joined in on the fight. The group has been retained by the San Carlos Apache Tribe who live near the proposed mining site.

The San Carlos Apaches have been highly critical of the mining site, issuing a study that found that Resolution Copper Mining greatly exaggerated the economic benefits to mining near the Tonto National Forest.

Mapesti has played up the issue of sacred lands being violated by the mining operation, which would violate an alleged holy place called Oak Flat.

“This public land at Oak Flat is a place of worship for the Apache, Yavapai, and other tribes in the region,” Mapetsi’s Jesse Renteria wrote in a September 19 email to a congressional staffer. “Native Americans have prayed, gathered medical herbs and plants, healed in holy perennial springs, and performed religious ceremonies at Oak Flat for hundreds of years. The United States should ensure that they can continue to do so in perpetuity.”

Massive mine proposed at Oak Flat, sacred tribal land

Natural pools form in a side canyon off of Gaan Canyon, where the San Carlos Apache Tribe says its spiritual beings reside. If a proposed copper mine is established at Oak Flat, the area pictured would be vulnerable to collapse, said Roger Featherstone of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition in Tucson.

By Emily Bregel, Arizona Daily Star

The planned Rosemont Copper Mine just south of Tucson isn’t the only mining controversy in Arizona.

It isn’t even the biggest.

About 100 miles north of Tucson, Resolution Copper Mining wants to build a mine in Superior, a town of 2,800 people, that could yield 1 billion pounds of copper a year. That’s more than four times the projected output for Rosemont Copper’s planned mine in the Santa Rita Mountains, which would produce an estimated 243 million pounds of copper annually.

Resolution — owned by mining giants U.K.-based Rio Tinto and Australia-based BHP Billiton — says the mine would create 1,400 jobs and generate $61 billion over its 40-year lifespan, plus construction and clean-up time. It would extract enough copper to meet 25 percent of U.S. demand.

“If you can imagine five Super Bowls in Superior every year for 60 years, that’s the level of economic boost and economic activity this mine is going to generate,” said Andrew Taplin, Resolution Copper Mining’s project director since October 2012.

But the project would also permanently alter an outdoor destination popular with Southern Arizonans. At the Oak Flat campground, five miles east of Superior, stone picnic tables are shaded by centuries-old oak trees. Manzanita shrubs and Mojave yucca dot the volcanic-rock boulder fields. Mountains on the horizon give way to forested canyons, where streams flow and natural pools form in the summer.

Tony Huerta, 83, who has lived in Superior since 1966, recalls days with his family grilling hot dogs or steaks at the picnic area.

“It’s beautiful,” he says. “That place is packed on holidays.”

Resolution and its parent companies have been trying for eight years to trade 5,400 acres they already own for 2,400 acres of the Tonto National Forest, which sit above the massive ore body. They’ll have another chance this fall if their land-exchange bill makes it to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

But leaders in Superior and nearby Queen Valley question where Resolution will dump a projected 1.7 billion tons of mine waste tailings. Mine opponents argue that Resolution is pushing the land exchange to avoid key environmental studies that are mandated for mining on public land. They question why those studies haven’t begun after more than a decade of mine planning.

“The tide is turning,” said Roger Featherstone of Tucson-based Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, which has been fighting the proposal for nearly a decade. “As more and more people are aware of just exactly how destructive this proposal is, people are waking up.”