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.
Earlier this week, the supervisor of the Tonto National Forest met with a group of Native Americans hoping to prevent copper mining at a sacred site east of Phoenix. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, recent federal legislation cleared the way for the Oak Flat area to become part of North America’s largest copper mine.