Native Americans seek to stop Rio Tinto, BHP copper mine plan
13 January 2021
Australian mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP are facing fresh opposition from Native American groups over a plan to build an enormous copper mine in Arizona in the United States.
Apache Stronghold, a non-profit group, has filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in Phoenix to stop the US government from transferring a 980-hectare parcel of land at Oak Flat, Arizona, to the mining giants' joint venture, Resolution Copper.
Resolution, which is 55 per cent owned by Rio Tinto and 45 per cent owned by rival BHP, says its proposed copper mine has the potential to supply nearly 25 per cent of US copper demand for 40 years.
But the project is being fought by the San Carlos Apache tribe, which fears the mine will impact sacred and actively utilised religious land at Oak Flat, known as Chi'chil Bildagoteel.
The lawsuit is seeking to prevent the publication of the final environmental impact statement on January 15 that would trigger the transfer of the land to Resolution.
"Chi'chil Bildagoteel is central to our traditional religion and identity as Apache people," former San Carlos Apache tribal chairman and Apache Stronghold leader Wendsler Nosie Sr said.
Resolution Copper said it was committed to ongoing engagement with the US Forest Service, tribes and the local community "to continue shaping the project and deliver initiatives that recognise and protect cultural heritage".
"Resolution Copper is reviewing the complaint filed by the Apache Stronghold against the United States government," a spokesman said.