It’s tough to miss a century plant in full bloom. The plant’s base of wide, pointed leaves sends up an enormously tall stalk that blooms brilliantly in spring. Also called agave or mescal, it’s a plant that’s common throughout the desert Southwest.
Since February, dozens, and sometimes hundreds of San Carlos Apache tribal members have been encamped at Oak Flat in opposition to the proposed copper mine. They marched more than 40 miles from the town of San Carlos on the nearby reservation and say Oak Flat is sacred ancestral land. In December, the National Defense Authorization Act traded Oak Flat and 2,400 surrounding acres to Resolution Copper, privatizing the area.
Plans are in the works to develop the largest copper mine in North America on Arizona’s Tonto National Forest. The proposed site for the nearly 3,000-acre mine is Oak Flat near the town of Superior. It’s an ancestral home for several clans of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, some of whom are protesting the development. They believe the Oak Flat mine is another example of the conflict between the protection of sacred sites and economic development.
Vernelda Grant, director of the San Carlos Apache Tribe's Historical Preservation and Archaeology Department, at Oak Fat Campground, the site of a proposed copper mine. The tribe says the project would decimate an area considered sacred by the San Carlos Apache Tribe.
A protest east of Phoenix is in its fourth week as a group of Native Americans has gathered in opposition to a proposed copper mine. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the area of the Tonto National Forest is a burial ground and considered sacred by several tribes throughout the state.