|By Brady Robinson |
Dec 16, 2013
As many of you know, the land exchange bill which would have put Oak Flat in jeopardy was once again defeated in Congress! Arizona Representative Gosar was forced to pull the bill because he feared he didn't have the votes to pass it.
Someday the copper ore, located 7000 feet under the ground of the Oak Flat camping and climbing area, may be mined. We hope that if that day comes, it is mined in a responsible manner that doesn't destroy the surface and all of its environmental, cultural and climbing values along with it.
Support from climbers like everyone reading this forum has enabled the Access Fund to maintain a dedicated Arizona staffer focused on defeating this destructive mine. We've kept the voice of climbers and other recreational users at the forefront of the debate and have played a crucial role in delivering this most recent defeat to Resolution Copper.
We couldn't have done this without your help and support. Thanks to all of you for your letters, advocacy and dedication over the years.
Today and tomorrow, the Access Fund is offering 20% off all memberships. Would you make a membership donation today to keep us working on this important issue? www.accessfund.org/weneedyou
Executive Director, Access Fund
See the article from AZ Central below for more information on the defeated legislation.
House vote on Resolution Copper mine put off indefinitely
By Erin Kelly for azcentral.com
Republic Washington Bureau
Wed Nov 13, 2013 9:53 PM
WASHINGTON — Plans to build North America’s largest copper mine near Superior were dealt a major blow Wednesday when congressional supporters of the project canceled a vote on their bill after a strong lobbying effort against the mine by Native American tribes throughout the nation.
For the second time in two months, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., was forced to pull his bill, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act, from the House floor or risk defeat.
Gosar is the lead sponsor of the bill, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz.
Supporters and opponents of the bill credited heavy lobbying by tribes for derailing the bill.
The San Carlos Apache Tribe, which fears the mine will destroy its sacred land, reached out to tribes across the country for help in stopping the project.
Those tribes then lobbied Republican House members in states with significant Native American populations to oppose a federal land swap that would have paved the way for Resolution Copper Co. to build the mine.
Lawmakers who didn’t care one way or another about a copper mine in Arizona began to oppose Gosar’s bill to avoid getting in political trouble with their own tribal constituents, according to supporters and opponents of Gosar’s bill.
To make matters worse for mine supporters, the bill was scheduled to come to a vote Wednesday in the midst of a Tribal Nations Conference this week that brought tribal leaders, including San Carlos Chairman Terry Rambler, to the nation’s capital to meet with White House officials.
President Barack Obama spoke to the tribal leaders Wednesday. Those leaders included representatives from tribes in states such as Oklahoma, where lawmakers had been wavering on Gosar’s bill.
Opponents of the mine say it would weaken the ground beneath sacred Native American lands such as Apache Leap, harm the environment and rock-climbing areas, and threaten the Phoenix area’s water supply.
Gosar was angry about Wednesday’s setback but said he will try again if he can secure the votes. He and other supporters of the mine say it would create more than 3,700 jobs, generate more than $61 billion in economic activity over the 66-year life of the mine, and supply 25 percent or more of the nation’s demand for copper.
“Today’s setback will not discourage me from my continued fight for this important Arizona jobs bill,” Gosar said in a statement. “I am disappointed that a mine of national significance that would have employed so many Native Americans was opposed by the leadership of the San Carlos Apache Tribe — a tribe plagued with excessively high unemployment and poverty.
“It is inexplicable decisions like this that directly result in the continued poverty of the tribe and the deterioration of the economic prospects of the town of Superior and the entire state of Arizona.”
Gosar accused San Carlos leaders of misleading other tribes about the project. Tribal leaders had no immediate comment Wednesday.
“Polls show the majority of San Carlos Apache tribal members support the mine and the jobs,” Gosar said. “Their tribal leadership is out of touch with its own people. I am confident that the truth will prevail and the will of the members of the tribe and surrounding communities will be done.”
Kirkpatrick also vowed to keep trying.
“The families in Arizona’s Copper Corridor need these jobs, and Arizona’s economy needs this boost,” she said in a statement. “I remain committed to moving this forward, working across the aisle with Congressman Gosar and my colleagues and bringing local stakeholders together. When it comes to creating jobs and strengthening the economy, we need to find common ground.”
Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., one of the major opponents of the mine, had no immediate reaction to Wednesday’s turn of events.
But he said in an interview last week that he believed an amendment to Gosar’s bill proposed by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., was causing a problem for the mine’s supporters. Any attempt to ignore or kill the amendment would cause “a political firestorm” for mine supporters, Grijalva said.
Lujan’s amendment had been scheduled for a vote Wednesday, in advance of Gosar’s bill. The amendment would have given the federal government greater authority to protect sacred Native American land not under tribal ownership.
Supporters of the copper mine said it was intended as a “poison pill” to kill the Resolution Copper project. But Lujan said his amendment would improve the bill, and tribal leaders urged their members of Congress to support his proposed change.
Lujan, in a recent speech on the House floor, cited strong tribal opposition to Gosar’s bill as a key reason he wanted to amend the legislation. Among the groups opposing the bill are the National Congress of American Indians, the United South and Eastern Tribes, the All Indian Pueblo Council of New Mexico, and the Jicarilla and Mescalero Apache tribes of New Mexico.
“The cultural and sacred sites of Apache Leap and Oak Flat are located on public land and not on an Indian reservation,” Lujan said. “Although these sites are not on an Indian reservation, they are still sacred to the San Carlos Apache, the Yavapai Indian Tribe, and other tribes in Arizona — just as a Catholic church, where I practice my faith, is considered a holy place even though it’s not located in Vatican City.”
However, Resolution Copper officials have said they would not mine beneath Apache Leap.
The decision by the mine’s supporters to pull their bill is the latest twist in a saga that dates to 2005, when Resolution Copper began seeking a federal land exchange. Eleven versions of a land-exchange bill have been introduced in Congress.
If the bill was approved by both chambers of Congress, Resolution Copper would get about 2,400 acres in the Oak Flat area of the Tonto National Forest in return for giving more than 5,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land throughout Arizona to the federal government.
“Resolution Copper is disappointed that a vote on (the bill) did not occur today,” company spokesman Troy Corder said. “We are focusing on the submission of our Mine Plan of Operation to the U.S. Forest Service this week. We are confident that our MPO will dispel misinformation around the project and establish that we have submitted the project for regulatory review. We feel that as the details of the MPO emerge, support will continue to grow for the legislation.”