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Oak Flat: The Latest Land Grab From Native Americans

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Reprinted from Campaign For America's Future


Oak Flat
(Image by Patrick Dochens, Creative Commons)
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A "sneak law" attachment to a "must-pass" bill gives sacred Native American land to a foreign mining company. How did this happen?

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Do you remember that "Citibank budget," where a budget bill to avert an imminent government shutdown suddenly had in it a Citibank-written provision deregulating certain risky financial trades? If Congress voted against the budget, the government would shut down, so Citibank got its way? This is how "sneak laws" get through. Usually We the People don't get a chance to learn about them in time to do something about it, and this was one example.

Another example of this happened in last year's National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. On page 1,103 of the 1,648-page bill is a provision giving more than 2400 acres of land in Arizona's Tonto National Forest to Resolution Copper, which is part of London-based Rio Tinto and Melbourn-based BHP Billiton, giant mining companies. This was done by Arizona Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake and Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar.

The area is known as Oak Flat and is land that is sacred to the San Carlos Apache Tribe and Yavapai-Apache Nation. They compare it to the sacredness of Mt. Sinai in other religions. In 1886, the federal government removed the tribes and expropriated the land.

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Sacred Land Given To A Foreign Corporation In A Sneak Law

America of course has a long and disgraceful history of stealing land from Native Americans -- to say the least. But this is the first time that sacred Native American land has been stolen to give to a foreign corporation.

However, this land transfer is unusual even before you consider that the beneficiary is a foreign corporation. This land has been given special protection since at least 1955. Even President Richard Nixon protected it, which is saying something. Five times Arizona Republicans have tried and failed to give this land to this company. Only by sneaking it into this must-pass bill did they succeed.

A New York Times op-ed calls the Oak Flat Apache land grab "an impressive new low in congressional corruption" and points out that:

"It belongs to the public, under the multiple-use mandate of the Forest Service, and has had special protections since 1955, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower decreed the area closed to mining -- which, like cattle grazing, is otherwise common in national forests -- because of its cultural and natural value. President Richard M. Nixon's Interior Department in 1971 renewed this ban."

Yes, this is "an impressive new low in congressional corruption."

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This Doesn't Just Grab The Sacred Land, It Destroys It

The method of mining "block cave mining" that is proposed is going to, by design, completely devastate the land. In Truthout's "The Apache Way: The March to Oak Flat," Roger Hill explains:

"This process involves a series of deep underground detonations, essentially collapsing the mountainous terrain in on itself and extracting the ore and materials from a series of tunnels dug in the earth. This process creates more toxic material than traditional surface mining and produces greater contaminants affecting the groundwater with acid runoff."

Of course neighboring towns are dependent on that groundwater.

This method will leave behind a "7,000-acre, 500-foot-high waste dump of toxic tailings." Later the cave will collapse, leaving behind destruction the size of five Empire State Buildings.

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Dave has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational (more...)
 

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