Science/Nature

Native American protesters help delay Arizona mining project

Native American protesters helped delay the Resolution Copper mining project planned for Arizona, after officials on Monday temporarily blocked the transfer of federal lands for the project for at least several months.

Tom Torres, the acting forest supervisor at the Tonto National Forest, the location of the land in question, announced that the Department of Agriculture directed him to withdraw the environmental impact statement that the Trump administration issued five days before his presidency ended.

Due to a previous congressional law, the 2,422 acres of the Oak Flat section would immediately be transferred to Resolution Copper 60 days after the environmental impact statement. But the Forest Service’s Monday actions stopped the automatic turnover.  

In his statement, Torres said the department will use the extra time for a “thorough review based on significant input received from collaborators, partners, and the public,” including the concerns presented by tribes. 

“The recent Presidential Memorandum on tribal consultation and strengthening nation to nation relationships counsels in favor of ensuring the Forest Service has complied with the environmental, cultural, and archaeological analyses required,” he said.

But the acting forest supervisor noted that Congress would need to pass legislation to fully prevent the transfer of the land that the National Register of Historic Places labels as “a holy place and ancestral homeland to the Western Apache Indians.”

Roger Featherstone, the director of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition that demonstrated against the project, said in a statement that the decision was “heartening.”

“This underscores yet again that the Resolution Copper project is a fatally flawed failed experiment,” he said in a statement. “We urge the US Congress to pass legislation, as the Forest Service’s statement suggests, to once and forever end this proposed project and permanently protect Oak Flat.”

Resolution Copper told The Hill in a statement that the company is “evaluating the Forest Service’s decision.”

“In the meantime, we will continue to engage in the process determined by the US government and are committed to ongoing consultation with Native American Tribes and local communities,” the company said in a statement.

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