Legislation Will Protect Sacred Indigenous Sites, Clean Water, Western Wildlife

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Raul Grijalva’s (D-Ariz.) proposal to protect Oak Flat will safeguard sacred Indigenous sites, wildlife habitat, and water supplies from destructive copper mining. Chi’chil Biłdagoteel, also known as Oak Flat, is part of the ancestral homelands of the San Carlos Apache, the Yavapai, Hopi, Zuni, and many other Tribes in the Southwest. 

“Representative Grijalva’s Save Oak Flat From Foreign Mining Act is essential to ensure that Chi’chil Biłdagoteel — an irreplaceable cultural and religious site for the Apache and other Indigenous peoples — is not destroyed by a destructive mining operation,” said Mustafa Santiago Ali, executive vice president of the National Wildlife Federation. “Congress should swiftly take up this bill and affirm that Indigenous communities’ religious rights matter. We still have an immense amount of work to do as a nation to fulfill our treaty obligations to Tribal Nations and to engage in prior and meaningful consultation, but passing Representative Grijalva’s Save Oak Flat Act would be an important step in the right direction.”

The Save Oak Flat From Foreign Mining Act is critical to protecting sacred lands and would stop the siphoning of approximately 250 billion gallons of water from a region that is already struggling with a mega-drought,” said Camilla Simon, executive director of Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO). “We are already exporting over twenty-five percent of copper that is mined in the U.S. and we shouldn’t be increasing that amount at the expense of depleting, destroying, and contaminating the precious water resources for wildlife and Arizona communities.”

According to environmental impact studies, copper mining at Oak Flat would create a crater two miles wide and up to 1,000 feet deep and would consume water equivalent to what 140,000 people would use in 40 years. 


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