Congress is poised to give a foreign mining company 2,400 acres of national forest in Arizona that is cherished ancestral homeland to Apache natives. Controversially, the measure is attached to annual legislation that funds the US Defense Department.
This week, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees quietly attached a provision to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would mandate the handover of a large tract of Tonto National Forest to Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of the Australian-English mining company Rio Tinto, which co-owns with Iran a uranium mine in Africa and which is 10-percent-owned by China.
The “Carl Levin and Howard P. ‘Buck’ McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015” – named after the retiring chairmen of the Senate and House Armed Services panels – includes the giveaway of Apache burial, medicinal, and ceremonial grounds currently within the bounds of Tonto. News of the land provision was kept under wraps until late Tuesday, when the bill was finally posted online.
The land proposed to be given to Resolution Copper, in exchange for other lands, includes prime territory Apaches have used for centuries to gather medicinal plants and acorns, and it is near a spot known as Apache Leap, a summit that Apaches jumped from to avoid being killed by settlers in the late 19th century.
Lands included in the plan will stop 1,500 feet short of Apache Leap and will not initially include an area known as Oak Flats, though, when it comes to the oaks, contradictory legal parameters are but a minor hurdle for a company like Resolution Copper to eventually drill there.