Rio Tinto and BHP - Billiton have created a subsidiary called Resolution Copper that is proposing to mine a rich copper vein more than 7,000 feet deep just east of Superior, Arizona and an hour east of Phoenix, Arizona. They have pressured some members of the Arizona Congressional delegation to introduce a land exchange bill that would privatize Oak Flat campground and surrounding public land. President Eisenhower placed the campground off limits to mining in 1955. Oak Flat is a Native American sacred site and it critical for the religious freedom of Arizona Tribes. Oak Flat is a prime recreation area, especially for rock climbing and bouldering with more than 2,500 established climbing routes. Oak Flat is also a rare desert riparian area and in Arizona, less than 10% of this type of habitat remains. The land exchange would allow mining companies to avoid following our nation’s environmental and cultural laws and would bypass the permitting process all other mines in the country have followed. It is the only bill in front of the US Congress that would privatize a Native American sacred site on public land. It would mean the largest loss of rock climbing on public lands ever, and would bypass the normal process for permitting mines on public land. Since 2005, 11 land exchange bills have been introduced and all have failed.
Concerned citizens are worried about the loss of Oak Flat Campground, a very popular recreation area. Birders, climbers, campers, canyoneers, bikers, and hikers enjoy the area throughout the year, all of whom would be greatly harmed if these lands were forever taken from public access. Native Americans have traditionally used the area for cultural, spiritual purposes, and for sustenance. The land exchange would include Apache Leap, a cliff where more than 80 Apache warriors chose to leap to their deaths rather than surrender to the US calvary.