San Carlos Apache Reservation—According to a poll conducted by FM3Research , nearly 75 percent of Arizona likely voters oppose the construction of the proposed Resolution Copper Mine that would destroy Chí’chil Biłdagoteel, a sacred Western Apache site also known as Oak Flat located on the Tonto National Forest east of Phoenix, according to a statewide public opinion poll released today.
“This survey shows there is overwhelming support from Arizona voters across the political spectrum for Congress to protect Chí’chil Biłdagoteel from certain destruction if the current plans for the Resolution Mine are allowed to move forward,” says Terry Rambler, Chairman, San Carlos Apache Tribe.
The poll was released as Congress considers the Save Oak Flat Act that would repeal a 2014 law that requires the U.S. Forest Service to trade Oak Flat to the Resolution Copper Company. Transferring ownership of the land to Resolution would allow the company to use a mining technique that would cause Chí’chil Biłdagoteel to collapse into a 1.8 mile wide, 1,000- foot-deep crater.
“We call on Arizona’s Congressional delegation, especially Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, as well as Rep. Tom O’Halleran, whose 1st Congressional District includes Oak Flat, to support legislation now before Congress to protect Chí’chil Biłdagoteel, which is the foundation of our traditional cultural and religious beliefs,” Chairman Rambler says.
The poll, conducted by FM3 Research of Oakland, CA between August 18-27, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4%. The poll of 605 likely Arizona voters was conducted by telephone and email surveys. It found 87% of Democrats, 81% of Independents and 58% of Republicans were opposed to the construction of the mine.
Urban opposition was strongest, with 81% opposed, suburban voters at 76% and rural voters at 64%. Majorities across age, gender and ethnic lines strongly oppose the mine proposal, according to the poll. The mine is also strongly opposed even after voters heard arguments supporting it.
The House Natural Resources Committee voted to include the Save Oak Flat Act in the House version of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act. The House is expected to vote on the Build Back Better Act later this week. Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT, introduced SOFA in the Senate last spring. The bill is currently before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee that includes Senator Kelly.
The Build Back Better legislation will be voted on in the Senate under budget reconciliation rules that require only a simple majority to pass thereby avoiding the need for 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster.
“Passage of SOFA is a fundamental issue in Indian Country and protecting Oak Flat is strongly supported by Arizona voters,” Chairman Rambler says. “We now have the best opportunity to have this happen if Congress includes SOFA in the Build Back Better Act and then approves this historic legislation.”
Resolution Copper is a subsidiary of the two largest multi-national mining companies in the world, Rio Tinto and BHP. Both companies have headquarters in Britain and Australia and have a notorious record of destroying sacred indigenous sites. Last year, Rio Tinto blew up Juukan Gorge in Western Australia that included evidence of human habitation 46,000 years ago.
“The federal government has a trust responsibility to protect our tribal cultural and sacred sites,” Chairman Rambler says. “These two mining companies have a well-documented history of knowingly destroying indigenous cultural sites and we must not allow those actions to continue in Arizona.”
The mine, which would be constructed between Superior and Miami in the Pinal Mountains, would destroy more than 16,000 acres of public land while consuming massive amounts of water and creating one of the largest mining toxic waste dumps in the world. The mine would use at the very least enough water to supply a city of 140,000 people every year for 40 years. There are no restrictions in state law on how much water mining companies can extract from groundwater aquifers.
“This poll clearly shows Arizonans do not want to sacrifice yet another indigenous sacred site for the short-term profit of foreign mining companies that will also destroy one of the most beautiful and rugged landscapes in North America while depleting huge amounts of our finite water supplies,” says Chairman Rambler.
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