Arizona's GOP Senators Play Dirty, Sell Apache Holy Site To Foreign Mining Company (VIDEO)

Arizona’s GOP Senators Play Dirty, Sell Apache Holy Site To Foreign Mining Company (VIDEO)

An ancient and beautiful Apache holy site is about to be handed off to a foreign mining company, thanks to Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake. What will be left behind, when the company is through, is a caved-in pit, 1,000 feet deep and two-miles wide.

For years, Resolution Copper Mining LLC has salivated over Oak Flat because of the deposits of copper and other ores that lie underground. However, President Dwight Eisenhower declared Oak Flat a protected area in 1955, which has kept the mining threat at bay. Multiple proposals to sell Oak Flat have died in Congress over the last 10 years.

Resolution Copper Mining is a joint endeavor by two foreign mining companies — the U.K.’s Rio Tinto, and Australia’s BHP-Billiton. The two are the largest mining companies in the world — and John McCain just happens to be Congress’ largest recipient of campaign contributions from Rio Tinto. Jeff Flake’s piece of the puzzle? He was once a paid lobbyist for Rio Tinto. Is anyone surprised by these revelations?

Sens. McCain and Flake did what Republican senators do best: they made a dirty end-run around the opposition. In December, they slipped a provision putting Oak Flat up for sale into the hundreds of pages of legislation that made up the Defense Authorization Act, a law funding the military whose passage was considered crucial. As a last-minute rider, the deal escaped public scrutiny — a common maneuver amongst corrupt politicians.

The use of the site as a ceremonial and burial ground by the Apaches pre-dates history, as shown by petroglyphs on the rocks and other archaeological evidence. In addition, the area is a gorgeous national recreation property, used by birders, campers, climbers and hikers.

Almost immediately after McCain and Flake’s spurious deal, the San Carlos Apache Tribe began organizing a protest. The tribe’s chairman, Terry Rambler, wrote a letter in January to other leaders of Native tribes in which he said:

“We have a dream that one day our children and their children to follow may freely practice the religious ceremonies that come from our Creator. We must stand together and fight those, like Resolution Copper, that seek to take our religious freedom, our most human right. If we do not, our beliefs, our spiritual lives, the very foundation of our language, our culture and our belief will no longer be in balance, and we will become undone. If we do not, the taking of one people’s human right threatens all human and religious rights.”

On February 9th, 300 members of the San Carlos Apache tribe began an occupation of the Oak Flat campground in protest of the impending sale. According to Earthworks, their cause has gathered the support of a wide range of organizations: conservation groups like the Sierra Club and the Arizona Audubon Society; associations like Concerned Citizens, the Retired Miners Association, and Concerned Climbers of Arizona; other Native groups like the White Mountain Apache Tribe, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Tribe, the Jicarilla Apache Tribe, the InterTribal Council of Arizona, and the National Congress of American Indians.

What has been done can — and should be — undone. A federal Environmental Impact Statement has to be issued before the transfer can take place. That process will take several years. In the meantime, public pressure on Congress could lead lawmakers to repeal the Arizona senator’s’ disgraceful rider.

Step one: contact your Congressman and protest the sale. Step two: Arizona, for the sake of all that’s holy, vote McCain and Flake out of office.

A video with stunning views of Oak Flat as well as the history of the mining issue up to 2012, before McCain and Flake’s disastrous amendment, can be seen here:

Feature photo via Saving Oak Flat Campground Facebook page.