At the tail end of 2014, just before the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act was going to be voted on, Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake slipped in a rider that in effect gave public land containing the sacred Apache site Oak Flat to a copper-mining company.
The San Carlos Apache and supporters, protesting since before the bill’s passage, began camping out there to stand their ground and are hosting a second spiritual gathering this weekend.
McCain, long known to have financial ties to Resolution Copper’s parent Rio Tinto and its affiliates—they are campaign contributors—and Flake, who served as a paid lobbyist for a Rio Tinto–owned uranium mine in Namibia. These tidbits and others came to light in a May 29 an op-ed piece that brought the greedy deed to the attention of The New York Times readership.
“The deal is an impressive new low in congressional corruption, unworthy of our country’s ideals no matter what side of the aisle you’re on,” wrote Lydia Millet in The New York Times. “It’s exactly the kind of cynical maneuvering that has taught the electorate to disrespect politicians — a disdain for government that hurts everyone. If ever there was a time for Congress to prove its moral mettle to the public, this is that time. The rider should be repealed.”
It is still possible to repeal the rider, she noted, given that the land-swap deal does not officially take effect until 60 days after a federal environmental impact statement is complete.
The mine that Resolution Copper would like to build “will hollow out a vast chamber that, when it caves in, will leave a two-mile-wide, 1,000-foot-deep pit,” Millet described. “The company itself has likened the result of its planned mining at Oak Flat to that of a nearby meteor crater.”
Read Selling Off Apache Holy Land in The New York Times.