Urgent Request to Protect Oak Flat Native American Sacred Site
January XX, 2021
The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr. President
1401 Constitution Ave.,
N.W. Washington, D.C. 20230
Re: Urgent Request to Protect Oak Flat Native American Sacred Site
Dear President Biden,
We write with urgency on behalf of the undersigned organizations representing millions of members and supporters to immediately withdraw the recently issued Final Environmental Impact Statement, Resolution Copper Project and Land Exchange (EIS 20210005) that will facilitate a land exchange and construction of the Resolution Copper mine, resulting in the destruction of a Native American sacred area, Oak Flat or Chi'chil Bildagoteel.
Located in the Tonto National Forest in southeastern Arizona, Oak Flat is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is of irreplaceable cultural importance for the Western Apache and other Tribes. Oak Flat is part of the ancestral homelands of not only the Apache, but also the Yavapai, Hopi, Zuni and many other Tribes in the Southwest. Nearly all of the 574 federally recognized Tribes have expressed opposition to the land transfer and support the protection of Oak Flat.
Oak Flat and the surrounding lands that are part of the exchange would be destroyed by the mine, creating a crater one mile wide and 1,000 feet deep. The area also has world-renowned rock-climbing sites and is popular with other recreationists. The land provides habitat for endangered species and hundreds of migratory birds.
Despite being withdrawn from mineral entry more than 60 years ago by President Eisenhower, a literal midnight rider (Section §3003) attached to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act authorized a land exchange upon release of the Final EIS and federal appraisal within 60-days, by the end of which Oak Flat would be transferred into the private ownership of Resolution Copper, a limited liability corporation jointly owned by foreign mining corporations Rio Tinto and BHP. If consummated, Oak Flat would forever be lost to current and future generations of Tribal members and the public at large.
It is this prohibition on mining that the mining companies seek to evade by obtaining possession of the land directly. Trading away this land without proper review and consideration of the vast devastation that would result is a fundamental abdication of the public trust. The mine will also cause extensive dewatering and risk pollution of ground and surface waters.
Unfortunately, the FEIS has been fast tracked by the Trump administration and includes numerous deficiencies that violate the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal laws, and as such, the FEIS should be withdrawn, allowing for more time to address these significant flaws.
This land is important to all Americans, but none more so than the Western Apache peoples, generations of whom have used it for ceremony, healing and sustenance across many centuries and continue to do so to this day.
Your administration has pledged to restore the federal government’s trust responsibility with Native nations and to protect sacred sites and public lands and waters with high conservation and cultural values.
We urge you to act swiftly and withdraw the flawed Final EIS for proper review and evaluation.