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Advisory Council on Historic Preservation letter on Oak Flat
Monday, March 29, 2021

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) issued a letter in connection with the proposed copper mine at Oak Flat, a sacred Apache site in Arizona.

According to the letter, Oak Flat would “be directly and permanently damaged” by the Resolution Copper mine. Rick Gonzalez, the vice chair of the ACHP, urged the Biden administration to continue consulting with the San Carlos Apache Tribe and other Indian nations opposed to the controversial project.

“As the heads of federal agencies, we have a responsibility to exercise leadership in the preservation of the nation’s irreplaceable cultural heritage,” Gonzalez said in the letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Monday.

Citizens and supporters of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, including former Chairman Wendsler Nosie Sr., far left, rallied at the U.S. Capitol on March 11, 2020, to call attention to the effort to protect Oak Flat in Arizona from development. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The mine has been in the works for several years but the Trump administration advanced it significantly in the closing weeks of the prior president’s term in office. The final environmental statement (FEIS) and the draft record of decision were issued on January 15, barely five days before Joe Biden came on board.

President Biden’s administration has since rescinded both documents. The U.S. Forest Service, which is part of the Department of Agriculture, is reviewing whether a land swap for the mine will go forward.

The federal government’s approval is needed because a portion of the proposed mine is located within the Tonto National Forest in Arizona. The land in question would be transferred to Resolution Copper Mining, LLC, a company held by foreign interests.

Legislation has been introduced to repeal the federal statute that paved the way for the land swap. The Save Oak Flat Act is H.R.1884 in the U.S. House of Representatives and S.915 in the U.S. Senate.

Oak Flat is known as Chí’chil Biłdagoteel in the Apache language. It is a place for prayers, ceremonies, food gathering and other purposes.


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