Lawmakers have slipped a piece of legislation that would allow a massive copper mine in southeast Arizona on public land that is sacred to the Apaches into a defense bill that must pass before the end of the year, the Arizona Republic reported on December 3.
The bill—H.R. 687 Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013—would allow a subsidiary of the controversial international mining conglomerate Rio Tinto to acquire 2,400 acres of the federally protected Tonto National Forest in southeast Arizona in exchange for 5,000 acres in parcels scattered around the state.
House lawmakers added the land-swap bill late Tuesday night into the 1,600-page National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense appropriation legislation that must be passed each year, according to the report.
The massive underground mining project is fiercely opposed by the San Carlos Apache Tribe and other southwestern nations, as well as the Sierra Club and local environmental groups, who fear the mine will devastate the water and land on Oak Flats—part of the Apaches’ ancestral territory but now held in trust as public land by the federal government. San Carlos has fought the copper mine proposal for nearly a decade. The tribal council passed a resolution opposing the mine in 2006.
The bill has been floating around for a while, having been before Congress in previous years as well.
A full report on the controversial mining proposal will follow.