- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Apache Tribe officials said in a meeting Friday they will fight a land trade that would allow for the development of a massive copper mine in southeastern Arizona.

Apache leader Wendsler Nosie called for solidarity during a meeting in South Tucson with environmental activists and others against the project. Nosie said the way legislators approved the swap in December was “dirty,” the Arizona Daily Star reported (https://bit.ly/1ClQ60M ).

“This is not just our fight. This is an American battle,” said Nosie, a former San Carlos Apache Tribe chairman.

The U.S. Senate approved a provision in a defense bill that would allow Resolution Copper Mining Co. to develop the project through a trade - 5,300 acres of environmentally sensitive land for 2,400 acres of the Tonto National Forest.

The proposal has been in the works for almost a decade. But it has been stalled by environmental concerns and objections by the Apache tribe, which considers a spot known as Apache Leap near the mine to be sacred.

Arizona lawmakers, including U.S. Reps Ann Kirkpatrick and Paul Gosar, have said the mine will create more than 3,700 jobs and pump billions of dollars in economic activity and tax revenue during its 60-year lifespan.

But Nosie and others opposed to the project said they will keep looking for legal and legislative ways to get the land swap revoked.

The mining company said Friday it’s committed to working with the tribes.

“We have been really trying for at least a decade to build a relationship with the San Carlos Apache Tribe to discuss mutual benefits of the project,” said Vicky Peacey, Resolution Copper’s senior manager for environment, permitting and community.

The benefits include mining jobs that would help with high unemployment rates on Indian reservations, Peacey said. “We’ve done a poor job of communicating the potential benefits,” she said.

Under the National Historic Preservation Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the company must comply with cultural protection regulations. But tribe members and U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell have said tribes should have been in on discussions before the land swap led to the handoff of their ancestral lands.

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Information from: Arizona Daily Star, https://www.azstarnet.com


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