SAN CARLOS APACHE TRIBE
Wendsler Nosie, Sr. Tribal Chairman David Reede, Vice-Chairman
June 20, 2007
George W. Bush
Re: Objection to the Southeastern Arizona Land Exchange and the Resolution Copper Mining Project.
Dear Honorable President Bush:
On behalf of the undersigned coalition of sovereign Tribes and Nations (Tribal Coalition), the Tribal Coalition objects to the proposal by Resolution copper Company (Resolution copper) to construct and operate an unprecedented block-caving mining operation in Gil County, Arizona, within the ancestral lands of the sovereign Native Nations of the Apache, Yavapai, Hopi, and O’Odham Indian community. The proposed mining operation will, among other things, result in the destruction, violation, and desecration of certain lands sacred to those Native Nations, including areas referred to by non-Indians as Oak Flat, Apache Leap and Devils Canyon, and adversely impact our ability to continue important practices of our religion and culture.
In addition, the mining project proposed by Resolution Copper will wrongfully deplete or contaminate the water resources found in nearby watersheds and aquifers, leaving the neighboring Native Nations and nearby communities in Southwestern Arizona to deal with the permanent religious, cultural, and environmental damages of this massive mining project – damages that will continue long after the parent companies of Resolution Copper, foreign mining interests Rio Tinto PLC and BHP Billiton, Ltd, have reaped the profits from the copper ore and water removed from these lands and any economic benefit of the mine to the local community has long since faded.
The Tribal Coalition also objects to any form of legislative land exchange which would allow or enable Resolution Copper to acquire or use Oak Flat campground and the approximately 2,300 acres of surrounding public lands for its mining purposes, including the removal of many tons of copper ore (and water) through a process of underground tunnels and block-caving, causing massive surface subsidence, and in many instances, the complete destruction of the surface features of Oak Flat and the corresponding desecration of Apache Leap.
Contrary to some suggestions, Congressional legislation, like that of the Southwestern Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act, which was drafted behind closed doors and without Tribal consultation or public input, and introduced tin Congress in 2005 and again in 2006, fails to provide any meaningful protection for Apache Leap, and would ignore the cultural, religious and historic significance of Apache Leap and the surrounding area in the Western Apache culture (Footnote 1). This is profoundly wrong and certainly not within the public interest as contemplated by the Federal Land Policy Management Act, 43 U.S.C. ‘ ‘ 1701 et seq. The Tribal Coalition asks your support in opposing any federal legislation which would transfer Apache Leap (with or without a “conservation easement”), and the surrounding public lands to private ownership for the benefit of foreign mining interests.
Resolution Copper’s proposal to acquire the 760 acres of the Oak Flat campground for its mining activities through a legislative land exchange also renders meaningless the express protection provided to Oak Flat since its recognition as an important recreational resource during President Eisenhower’s Administration in 1955. Oak Flat, and the surrounding areas, has been an important place for the gathering of medicinal herbs and traditional food for the Apache since time immemorial. The unique and sensitive ecosystem of the Oak Flat and Apache Leap area also provide important habitat for many different types of plants, animals, and songbirds, some of which are listed under the Endangered Species Act. The Tribal Coalition cannot, on any basis support a legislative land exchange which would allow the destruction of those culturally significant and environmentally important lands, especially where the devastating impacts from the mining activities to be conducted on, around and underneath Oak Flat and Apache Leap will continue forever, leaving future generations to suffer from the legacy of damage left behind.
It is axiomatic that mining operations, especially copper mines like the block-caving operations proposed by Resolution, eventually result in the contamination and depletion of the surface and groundwater (and sediments and soils), not only in the immediate area of the mining operation, but often throughout the adjoining and related aquifers. It is simply not a matter of “if”, but “when.” The truth is that the United States short term experience with mines of this type does not provide it with adequate information to evaluate the long-term and irreparable effects of such massive form of underground mining, which may take many centuries for these very real impacts to fully manifest. These impacts, coupled with the cumulative environmental effects of other significant mining activities in the region, must not be lightly case aside by Congress or others who may be persuaded by Resolution Copper’s promise of short term economic gain and employment.
The Tribal Coalition has not been given any opportunity to review a mining plan of operations for the proposed project, and the Coalition is unaware of any models or studies conducted by or for Resolution Copper which provide empirical and realistic predictions as to the amount of water that the mining project will use or removed from the surrounding aquifers and watersheds. Water required for the mining and processing of the copper ore will permanently deplete billions of gallons of water each year. “Dewatering” of the mine during mining activity will require the removal of many more billions of gallons of water per year. Finally, the alteration of both the subsurface and surface structure of this area as a result of the block-caving process will permanently alter the natural state of the aquifers and surface drainage of the watersheds in the area. Resolution Copper should be required to outline the full impact of its mining project on the surrounding aquifers and watershed, and to justify its legal right to the use of such water, before Congress or any public agency or department of the United States allows any form of mining to begin on or around these lands.
Finally, while Resolution Copper has spent a great deal of money and effort to create the impression that it will act as a good steward of the local environment, it is important to recall that Resolution Copper is, in fact, the creation of two of the largest foreign mining corporations in the world, Rio Tinto PLC and BHP Billiton, Ltd. It is clear that the driving interest of Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton does not include the cultural concerns of the Tribal Coalition or even the long term environmental protection of southwestern Arizona, but rather is exclusively driven by the need to obtain the greatest profit for mostly foreign shareholders. Moreover, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton does not include the cultural concerns of the Tribal Coalition or even the long term environmental protection of southeastern Arizona, but rather is exclusively driven by the need to obtain the greatest profit for the mostly foreign shareholders. Moreover, Rio Tinto has a long history of serious environmental problems and is know throughout the world for its alleged human rights violations and mistreatment of indigenous cultures from the Americas, to Australia and Papua New Guinea. BHP Billiton also has a legacy of environmental problems that should not be ignored.
Once the sacred lands and environment of Oak Flat, Apache Leap and Devils Canyon have been desecrated and destroyed by the mining operation of Resolution Copper, they can never be restored. The environmental consequences and harm to the religion, culture, and identity of the Apache, Yavapai, Hopi, and O’Odham Indian Community cannot be mitigated or required by any promise of Congress or that of Resolution Copper. We strongly urge you to reject and oppose any proposal in Congress for a legislative land exchange, and implore you to support a detailed ad hard look at the mining operations proposed by Resolution Copper in this culturally significant and environmentally sensitive area of southeastern Arizona.
SAN CARLOS APACHE, Wendsler Nosie, Sr., Tribal Chairman
WHITE MOUNTAIN APACHE, Ronnie Lupe, Tribal Chairman
CAMP VERDE YAVAPAI APACHE, Jamie Fullmer, Tribal Chairman
TONTO APACHE TRIBE, Ivan smith, Tribal Chairman
HUALAPAI TRIBE, Charles Vaughn, Tribal Chairman
HOPI TRIBE, Todd Honyaoma Sr., Tribal Vice-Chairman