Protect Chi'chil Bildagoteel (Oak Flat)
Chi’ chil Bildagoteel, known in English as Oak Flat, is a Traditional Cultural Property listed on the National Register of Historic Places located within the Tonto National Forest (TNF) in southeastern Arizona and is a Sacred Site to the Apache and other Native Nations. The Oak Flat area plays a particularly vital role in informing spirituality and culture of many Native Nations— past and present. Since time immemorial, Native people have traveled to Oak Flat to participate in ceremonies, to pray, to gather medicines and ceremonial items, to honor those buried within its boundaries, and to seek and obtain personal cleansing & healing.
Oak Flat is also regularly utilized as an important recreational and ecological place. The site is often used for camping, hiking, rock climbing, and bird watching, among many other uses.
This sacred site is under threat by Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of foreign mining conglomerates Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, who hope to build the largest copper mine in North America at the Oak Flat area. To build the mine, the companies worked behind closed doors to ensure the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange was included as Section 3003 of the FY15 NDAA, P.L. 113-291. The land exchange transfers 2,422 acres of TNF land, including sacred Oak Flat, to Resolution Copper in exchange for Resolution Copper-owned parcels that will go to the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service.
The mine, associated infrastructure, and toxic waste material will not only permanently destroy Oak Flat but will directly, adversely, and permanently affect numerous sacred springs, traditional areas, burial locations, and other cultural places and experiences of high spiritual and cultural value. The massive mine will cause irreversible destruction to thousands of acres of public lands and contaminate already scarce water sources. Resolution Copper plans to use a block-cave mining technique, which will result in a 1.8-mile-wide crater (the distance from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial) over a thousand feet deep. The mine will consume more than 637,000 acrefeet of water and require over 40 miles of pipeline through large parts of the TNF to slurry out toxic waste and ore concentrate. It will also require the construction of massive utility and road corridors that could span 500 feet in width. This mine will deplete and contaminate precious water resources in the region and result in a toxic waste dump that could cover 15,000 acres and be taller than the Washington Monument.
The land exchange would allow mining companies to avoid following our nation’s environmental and historic preservation laws.
Save Oak Flat Act
Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) introduced the Save Oak Flat Act H.R. 1884 to permanently protect the Oak Flat area of Tonto National Forest from destructive mining proposals. Senator Bernie Sanders introduced its companion bill in the S.915 in the Senate. Oak Flat, or Chi’chil Bildagoteel, is of significant cultural importance and considered sacred by many tribal communities in Arizona, including the San Carlos Apache Tribe, which has resisted a years-long effort by Resolution Copper – owned by international mining conglomerates BHP and Rio Tinto – to mine the region. Grijalva has been leading the issue since the insertion of an unrelated provision in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act mandating the federal government transfer 2,422 acres of Tonto National Forest land to Resolution Copper in exchange for less valuable land elsewhere.
Please urge your congressional leaders to cosponsor and support the Save Oak Flat Act.
Learn more about how you can help protect Oak Flat