Sacred Apache land 'on death row' in standoff with foreign mining titans
3 March 2021
A group of Apaches and other opponents of the mine took the battle to court in January, suing the federal government to halt the land transfer.
The Apaches have already suffered one legal defeat. The judge denied their emergency request to block the transfer.
U.S. District Judge Steven Logan acknowledged that the mine would "close off a portal to the Creator forever and will completely devastate the Western Apaches' lifeblood," but he said the loss didn't appear to breach religious freedom laws. He concluded that the Apache Stronghold group lacked legal standing because it represented individuals rather than a tribal government.
Apache Stronghold is appealing the decision, and the broader case continues. Two more lawsuits have been filed to block the project.
...[T]he Biden administration retracted an environmental impact review of the project. The review, which the Forest Service had released just five days before Biden took office, set in motion a 60-day countdown to the land transfer. The handling of the review had drawn sharp criticism as an attempt by the Trump administration to hobble future efforts to disrupt the project.
The abrupt retraction means the land transfer will no longer take place March 11. ...
Attorneys for Apache Stronghold said the decision only delays the planned destruction. "Oak Flat is still on death row," said one of the attorneys, Michael Nixon. "This is just a postponement of the execution date."
A spokesperson said Resolution Copper is evaluating the Forest Service's decision and is committed to "ongoing consultation with Native American Tribes and local communities."