UPDATE 01. March 2021: OAK FLAT -- FOREST SERVICE PUTS SACRED OAK FLAT LAND GIVEAWAY ON TEMPORARY HOLD "FOR SEVERAL MONTHS"

UPDATE 20. February 2021: Chili Yazzie: The Planet is in Trouble, Time for Conversations with Indigenous Peoples

UPDATE 18. February 2021: APACHE APPEAL RULING ALLOWING SACRED OAK FLAT LAND GIVEAWAY. POWERHOUSE LAW FIRM BECKET JOINS APACHE STRONGHOLD LEGAL TEAM.

UPDATE 13. February 2021: U.S. judge will not stop land transfer for Rio Tinto mine in Arizona

UPDATE 12. January 2021: APACHE STRONGHOLD: JUDGE REFUSES INJUNCTION TO STOP SACRED OAK FLAT LAND GIVE AWAY AND DESTRUCTION

UPDATE 26. January 2021: Rio Tinto and BHP battle Apache to build North America's biggest copper mine at sacred Oak Flat site

UPDATE 16. January 2021: Outcry as Trump officials to transfer sacred Native American land to miners

ICYMI: EPA awards 3 companies $220M for cleanup of abandoned uranium mines on Navajo Nation

PROLOGUE: The Anglo-Australian mining conglomerate Rio-Tinto and multinational BHP (formerly BHP Billiton) from Australia are a disgrace to Earth. Rio-Tinto not only mine the largest mountain of gold in West-Papua illegally, poison rivers in Bougainville (PNG), work with corruption in the Republic of Guinea, have been prosecuted for fraud in buying African coal assets, but also destroy extremely important sacred sites of Aboriginal People of Australia without hesitation (well, for this one they got seriously punished). All this they do just for profit and to supply the Chinese war-machine with iron or the 'Green Deals' with copper for electrification solutions. Now they bribed together with BHP their way through the courts in the USA against the Apache First Nation and against international outcry. Stolen land can never become property of the thieves - be it Mexico or the USA - and must be in the caring hands of its righful owners! The only proper response by any honest investor is: DIVEST FROM RIO-TINTO and BHP !!!

The San Carlos Apache Indigenous people are fighting to block a massive mining project that would cut a two-mile wide crater through sacred land.

Apache_rally_OTU_img
In front of the US Capitol, Native Americans protest a planned cooper mine in Arizona. Picture: Joseph Huff-Hannon

By Nick Kimbrell - 31. July 2021

For many it was the last stop on a weeks-long cross-country journey to save a stretch of land in southeastern Arizona, revered by the Apache, from a massive mining project. One by one, Apache, Navajo and other Indigenous representatives took the stage, many of them in ceremonial camp dress. The procession was punctuated by calls to “Warrior up Apache,” and “Save Oak Flat!”

“I am not afraid to stand up for who I am,” said 16-year-old Naelyn Pike, “because I am Apache, because I believe in the creator, because I want to protect the mother earth.”

Last December, the Senate passed the $585 billion National Defense Authorization Act. Tucked deep inside the 697-page bill, which covered everything from military pay to training programs for Iraqi security forces, was a land exchange provision handing over 2,400 acres of Arizona’s Tonto National Forest to Resolution Copper. The land exchange rider, introduced at the last minute, went largely unnoticed—but not by the San Carlos Apache.

For nearly a decade, they had successfully fought to protect a stretch of the park known as Oak Flat from Resolution Copper, a joint venture between foreign mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton. The Apache and other local Indigenous peole consider the land holy and have used it for generations to hold religious ceremonies, from acorn gathering to coming of age rituals.

Since the defense bill passed, Apache activists and First Nation leaders have redoubled their efforts to save Oak Flat from mining that could create a crater up to two miles wide and a thousand feet deep. They’ve occupied the land since February and built a grassroots movement called Apache-Stronghold that caravaned across the country visiting other First Nations and opening concerts for rock legend Neil Young. This week, after three weeks on the road, they brought the fight to Washington. (Disclosure: the organization I work for, Avaaz, has been supporting the Apache’s efforts.)

Councilman Wendsler Nosie Sr., a former Apache chairman who is leading the effort to save Oak Flat, compares the site to Mount Sinai. “It’s our holy and sacred site,” he told The Nation. “Throughout time, these places have been destroyed, but now by itself [Oak Flat] has shown us enough is enough, that we have to draw the line to protect.”

Nosie is hopeful but well-aware of the obstacles ahead. Many Arizona lawmakers, including Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, support the mining proposal and have ties to the mining industry. McCain, in particular, reaffirmed his support for the deal the same day as the Apache’s rally, calling the defense bill’s rider, “a bipartisan compromise arrived at after a decade of debate and public testimony.”

The mine’s congressional supporters argue the project will inject desperately needed jobs and money into an economically depressed community. But Indigenous leaders like Chairman Terry Rambler question the number of jobs the mine would bring.

And the San Carlos Apache have allies in Congress as well. Last month, Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, introduced bi-partisan legislation to repeal the land exchange, calling it a “sweetheart deal”.

“We’ve been consistently opposed to this,” Grijalva told The Nation. “The historical irony in this whole thing is we’re violating a First American sacred site in order to facilitate a mining deal for a foreign mining company.”

Apache-Stronghold also has the backing of a growing number of Indigenous associations, including the National Congress of American Indians, which voted to support the effort to repeal the land exchange earlier this year. And over 1,000,000 people have signed an Avaaz petitioncalling on Congress to save Oak Flat.

The growing support for the Apache’s fight, propelled into the national spotlight by a New York Times op-ed this spring, was on display at this week’s Save Oak Flat rally. On stage with Native American activists were speakers from the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Progressive National Baptist Convention, and a steady stream of House members.

At the rally, Noel Altaha sat under the shade of an umbrella, wearing a skyblue Apache T-necklace emblazoned with her name and an eagle, symbolizing her Apache clan affiliation. She joined the Apache-Stronghold’s caravan in New York, where members of this First Nation held a flash mob in Times Square last week.

Altaha spoke briefly in Apache before explaining her opposition to the mine, and her fears about the effects a mine would have on the sacred site, the area’s water supply, and on the safety of Apache women. “When you take away a person’s identity,” she said, “you take away their rights as an individual.”

 

Author:

Nick Kimbrell is a senior campaigner at Avaaz.org - TWITTER

===

UPDATES:

OAK FLAT -- FOREST SERVICE PUTS SACRED OAK FLAT LAND GIVEAWAY ON TEMPORARY HOLD "FOR SEVERAL MONTHS"

 
By Apache Stronghold - 01. March 2021
 
FOREST SERVICE PUTS SACRED OAK FLAT LAND GIVEAWAY ON TEMPORARY HOLD "FOR SEVERAL MONTHS."
 

OAK FLAT, Ariz. – The Forest Service announced this morning that it will "rescind" January 15, 2021, Final Environmental Impact Statement which triggered the 60 day time clock to the Oak Flat giveaway.  But the Forest Service added that "consultations such as this generally take several months."

"They are just attempting a temporary strategic retreat," said Apache Stronghold leader and former San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman Dr. Wendsler Nosie, Sr.  "they still intend to try and give away our sacred land."

Apache Stronghold attorney Luke Goodrich from Becket Law said, "The Government just announced it is rescinding the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Oak Flat—six hours before its deadline to reply to Apache Stronghold's emergency appeal.  This is no coincidence.  The Government knows the destruction of Oak Flat violates federal law. It knows it can't justify it in court.  So it is retreating--temporarily. But a temporary retreat doesn't solve the problem.  The Government is still planning on transfer and destruction of Oak Flat.  Oak Flat still needs legal protection.  And if the Government is acting in good faith, it should not oppose a court order protecting Oak Flat while the litigation proceeds."

The U.S. District Court did find that "[t]he spiritual importance of Oak Flat to the Western Apaches cannot be overstated" and that the impending destruction of Oak Flat "will completely devastate the Western Apaches' spiritual lifeblood."  However, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals still needs to overturn  the inappropriate District Court ruling that the Apache have no Constitutional religious rights protections and that the U.S. Government has no Trust Responsibility to the Apache even though their Treaty of 1852 guarantees the Apache "prosperity and happiness."

"Oak Flat is still on death row," said Apache Stronghold attorney Michael Nixon, "The Forest Service's announcement is welcome but doesn't have much real meaning because they are just changing the execution date so they can coerce and pressure the Apache some more.  It is unconscionable."

After destroying the Juukan Gorge sacred site in Australia on May 20, 2020, this past summer, on December 9, 2020, Rio Tinto Chairman Simon Thompson promised, "As a business, we are committed to learning from this event to ensure the destruction of heritage sites of such exceptional archaeological and cultural significance never occurs again."

Today's announcement does nothing to change the fact that Rio Tinto and the Forest Service still intend on giving away Oak Flat.  They are just trying to tap the breaks a bit as they still move to their goal of repeating their Juukan Gorge travesty at Oak Flat. 

More info at: https://apache-stronghold.com/about-us.html ; Instagram: @protectoakflat ; Twitter: @SaveOakFlat .

 

Contacts:  Dr. Wendsler Nosie, Sr. Apache Stronghold,

Michael V. Nixon, J.D.,

===

AIM Liberation Day 2021

AIM Liberation Day, Wounded Knee, Feb. 27, 2021

2021 AIM Liberation Day 48th Anniversary

•Feb 27, 2021

In the news, Roque Madrid, the medic who flew supplies into Wounded Knee in 1973, and was shot, shares his story.

.https://www.rmpbs.org/blogs/rocky-mountain-pbs/colorado-medic-recalls-wounded-knee-occupation/?fbclid=IwAR3O8_JqplnL5X_HwEOICdNeSP88lAhLvhnhBGzaQNyicoOdqga9qLd6fNc

===

Chili Yazzie: The Planet is in Trouble, Time for Conversations with Indigenous Peoples

 

By Duane Chili Yazzie - Shiprock, Navajo Nation - 20. February 2021

The energy development interest is mired in a mindset that says there is nothing wrong with how they do business. The first impulse is to oppose any suggestions that energy development could be done in a different way. They bristle at the talk of addressing the climate crisis and of renewable energy. The automatic reaction to the Biden Administration's strategy on the climate issue has been to hit the trenches with contingency plans to hunker down for an all-out campaign to defend their domain.

The business of energy development is fused with the ideology of capitalism, which is built on the law of supply and demand. The driving force is the economics, the profit margin. Because of the bottom line at the bank and the rat race to maintain it, it is a battle with many fronts in an all-encompassing effort to stay ahead of the game. There is little regard for the human and environmental devastation strewn along the way. That is the cost of doing business, just an expense.

It must be a vicious cycle with potential threats to the supply line, the perceived damage that could be done to the infrastructure of society and government, the payroll of families and the health of the corporate bottom line. The metering gauge in the board room must be erratic, vacillating between emboldened confidence and frenetic anxiety over the policy that looms to save the environment.

This appears to be the dynamics of the energy development world. We understand. Antithetically, the energy development hierarchy does not seem to have any reason to be open to understand the argument of the environmentalists to preserve the earth. The environmentalists' arguments are pragmatic science. I suppose that with sincere objectivity, the corporation and the environmentalist could find common ground and agree on some basic premises based on facts – if there were such an opportunity.

In a separate paradigm, I do not believe the corporate big wheels readily comprehend why Indigenous peoples claim the earth as our mother, that the earth has a life essence, a spirit. Indigenous understand the corporate mind. There is no doubt in our Indigenous mind that we can show you the fallacy of your corporate ways and why you need to rethink your priorities. This is a challenge.

Our planet, our home, is in trouble. It is imperative that we have a conversation. We ask respectfully that we come to the table as equal humanity, the future of our collective world. Your business, the lives of our grandchildren, and coming generations depend on us to do so.

===

APACHE APPEAL RULING ALLOWING SACRED OAK FLAT LAND GIVEAWAY. POWERHOUSE LAW FIRM BECKET JOINS APACHE STRONGHOLD LEGAL TEAM.

February 18, 2021

Wendsler Nosie and granddaughter Naelyn Pike. Photo by Steve Pavey
February 18, 2021


APACHE APPEAL RULING ALLOWING SACRED OAK FLAT LAND GIVEAWAY. 
POWERHOUSE LAW FIRM BECKET JOINS APACHE STRONGHOLD LEGAL TEAM.

 

PHOENIX – This afternoon Apache Stronghold filed an appeal of U.S. District Court Judge Steven Logan's February 12, 2021, ruling refusing to prevent the giveaway of sacred Oak Flat to Rio Tinto/Resolution Copper before the completion of litigation.  The U.S. Government agreed earlier not to proceed with the land transfer "any sooner than" March 11, 2021; however, Judge Logan refused to stop the giveaway even though a trial will last far beyond that date and the giveaway will happen during the trial without an injunction to stop it.

Apache Stronghold in the next several days will request an emergency injunction from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to stop the giveaway of Oak Flat.  The appeal will challenge Judge Logan's rulings that (1) the Apache Stronghold has no right to ask a Court for help because they are not an officially designated a "sovereign nation," that (2) the U.S. Government has no Trust Responsibility to the Apache even though their Treaty of 1852 guarantees the Apache "prosperity and happiness," and that (3) the Apache will not suffer a "substantial burden" in losing Oak Flat because they are not being "coerced to act contrary to their religious beliefs by the threat of civil or criminal sanctions" even though after Oak Flat becomes private property on March 11, Apaches praying there will be subject to arrest and prosecution for criminal trespass.

"We must appeal to stop the giveaway of Chi'chil Bildagoteel on March 11," said Apache Stronghold leader and former San Carlos Apache Chairman Dr. Wendsler Nosie, Sr.  "We disagree that destruction of our sacred land, stopping our ability to practice our religion and subjecting us to criminal trespass arrest for praying on our sacred grounds is not a 'substantial burden' on us."

In his February 12 ruling, Judge Logan did find that "The evidence before this Court shows that the Apache peoples have been using Oak Flat as a sacred religious ceremonial ground for centuries…the spiritual importance of Oak Flat cannot be overstated…the Apache peoples believe that Usen, the Creator, has given life to the plants, to the animals, to the land, to the air, to the water…The Apaches view Oak Flat as a 'direct corridor' to the Creator's spirit."  And, "[t]he Court does not dispute, nor can it, that the Government's mining plans on Oak Flat will have a devastating effect on the Apache people's religious practices."

Nonetheless, Judge Logan denied the injunction, clearing the way for the land giveaway.

"I am a Veteran.  I served in Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf," said Cranston Hoffman Jr., an Apache Stronghold Member.  "Just as I served to defend this Country as a soldier in the Army, I serve my People to defend our traditional Apache Way of Life as an Apache Medicine Man."

Native Americans serve in the Armed Forces at a higher rate than any other ethnic group.  Twenty-seven American Indians have been awarded the Medal of Honor.  Hundreds of Native American soldiers have sacrificed their lives for this Country, leading many to wonder, "why is our religion not protected like all other religions?"

Apache Stronghold's appeal will ask the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to recognize that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in McGirt v. Oklahoma (2020) that "we hold the government to its word" in a Treaty with the Creek Indians, and that the U.S. Supreme Court has stopped multiple government violations of religious rights in cases like Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014) and Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania (2020).

Becket (https://www.becketlaw.org/) will be representing Apache Stronghold for the appeal. Recognized by the Associated Press as "a powerhouse law firm," Becket is known for its success in defending the free expression of all faiths. It has won seven Supreme Court cases in the last nine years, including the famous cases of Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor, and has broad experience defending Native American religious practices and sacred sites.

In addition, please note that the Apache Stronghold's Lis Pendens, or lien, on the Pinal County Oak Flat property title in the Pinal County Courthouse in Florence is still in effect.

More information at: https://apache-stronghold.com/about-us.html
Instagram: @protectoakflat
Twitter: @ProtectOakFlat, @BECKETlaw

Contact:
Dr. Wendsler Nosie, Sr., Apache Stronghold,

Michael V. Nixon, J.D.,

French translation by Christine Prat

===

U.S. judge will not stop land transfer for Rio Tinto mine in Arizona

By Ernest Scheyder - 13. February 2021

A federal judge on Friday said he would not stop the U.S. Forest Service from transferring government-owned land in Arizona to Rio Tinto Plc for its Resolution Copper project, denying a request from Native Americans who said the land has religious and cultural import.

https://static.reuters.com/resources/r/?m=02&d=20210212&t=2&i=1551381759&r=LYNXMPEH1B1SI&w=800

A sign adorns the building where mining company Rio Tinto has their office in Perth, Western Australia, November 19, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo/File Photo

The judge’s decision is likely to escalate the clash between members of Arizona’s San Carlos Apache, who consider the land home to deities, and Rio and minority partner BHP Group Plc, who have spent more than $1 billion on the project without producing any copper, the red metal used to make electric vehicles and other electronics devices.

The ruling means the land transfer can now take place by mid-March under a timeline approved by Congress and then-President Barack Obama in 2014.

U.S. District Judge Steven Logan, an Obama appointee, said the group of Native Americans who brought the suit lacked standing and that the government has the right to give the land to whomever it chooses.

Apache members claimed the U.S. government has illegally occupied the land for more than 160 years, but Logan sided with government attorneys by finding that Washington gained the land in an 1848 treaty with Mexico.

Representatives for the Apache, for Rio Tinto and the U.S. Forest Service were not immediately available for comment. BHP declined to comment.

“We remain undaunted,” said Michael Nixon, an attorney for Apache Stronghold, the nonprofit group of Native Americans opposed to the mine.

Logan’s ruling was related to an injunction request. Apache Stronghold had also asked for a jury trial to determine, in part, whether the U.S. government can give the land away. It was not immediately clear when that trial could take place as U.S. courts have prioritized criminal cases during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some Native Americans work for and support the Resolution project, though many others have vowed to oppose it forcefully.

Logan last month declined to block the publication of an environmental study that started the 60-day countdown for the land swap.

Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Chris Reese, David Gregorio and Diane Craft

===

APACHE STRONGHOLD

 
Wendsler Nosie photo by Steve Pavey


JUDGE REFUSES INJUNCTION TO STOP SACRED OAK FLAT LAND GIVE AWAY AND DESTRUCTION

12. February 2021

PHOENIX – This afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Steven Logan denied Apache Stronghold's request for an injunction preventing the giveaway and destruction of sacred Oak Flat to Rio Tinto/Resolution Copper.  Judge Logan said that Apache Stronghold has no right to ask the Court for help because they are not an officially designated a "sovereign nation."

Judge Logan said that the U.S. Government has no Trust Responsibility to the Apache even though their Treaty of 1852 says, "the government of the United States shall so legislate and act as to secure the permanent prosperity and happiness of said Indians."  In reaching this conclusion, the Judge quoted a case saying, "The exclusive right of the United States to extinguish Indian title has never been doubted.  And whether it be done by treaty, by the sword, by purchase, by the exercise of complete dominion adverse to the right of occupancy, or otherwise, its justness is not open to inquiry in the courts."

Judge Logan also concluded that the complete destruction of Oak Flat, turning it into a two mile wide crater over a thousand feet deep, and eliminating the Apache ability to practice their religion" is not a "substantial burden" on the Apache because they are not being "coerced to act contrary to their religious beliefs by the threat of civil or criminal sanctions" even though after Oak Flat becomes private property on March 11, Apaches praying there will be subject to arrest and prosecution for criminal trespass.

"We are very disappointed, but we are not giving up and are excited to appeal to a higher Court and to prove our points where we disagree," said Apache Stronghold leader and former San Carlos Apache Chairman Dr. Wendsler Nosie, Sr.  "To say that we are not being coerced is not accurate as I am living there, we are praying there, yet if Rio Tinto gets Chi'chil Bildagoteel and the land becomes private property on March 11, we will be arrested for criminal trespass on our own Sacred Land."

Judge Logan also said that the U.S. Supreme Court case Hobby Lobby does not apply because "the Court considered the discrete issue of whether corporate entities could be considered 'persons'…"; however, the Supreme Court ruling protected individuals, saying that "[i]t requires the Hahns and Greens to engage in conduct that seriously violates their sincere religious belief…" and "[i]f they and their companies refuse to provide contraceptive coverage, they face severe economic consequences." 

"We don't understand how the Court can protect that the Hahns and Greens in Hobby Lobby from a government action 'that seriously violates their sincere religious belief,' when the Court does not protect us as our sacred Chi'chil Bildagoteel is about to be destroyed, our Deities killed and our Apache religion lost forever?" added Dr. Nosie.  "It this what the Court considers a compelling government interest?"

More information at: https://apache-stronghold.com/about-us.html
Instagram: @protectoakflat
Twitter: @ProtectOakFlat

Contacts: Dr. Wendsler Nosie, Sr., Apache Stronghold,

Michael V. Nixon, J.D.,

===

Rio Tinto and BHP battle Apache to build North America's biggest copper mine at sacred Oak Flat site

By Sue Lannin - 26. January 2021 - updated 27. January 2021

Apache elder Dr Wendsler Nosie Snr sits on the ground at Oak Flat.

Apache elder Wendsler Nosie is one of those leading the campaign to save Oak Flat from mining. (Supplied: Wendsler Nosie)

"This place is very holy and religious to us."

Wendsler Nosie Senior, an elder of the San Carlos Apache, is describing his people's land, Oak Flat or Chi'chil Bildagoteel, in the Arizona desert in the US south-west.

The site in the Tonto National Forest is a popular camping and hiking ground and contains sacred cultural heritage locations that include rock carvings, burial sites and the Apache Leap, where Apache warriors jumped to their death after being driven to the edge of the cliff by the US cavalry.

But earlier this month, in the dying days of the Trump administration, the US Government handed over Oak Flat to two of the world's biggest mining companies, Rio Tinto and BHP.

Through a joint venture named Resolution Copper, the global miners want to build North America's largest copper mine, on the Apache land, about 100 kilometres from Arizona's capital Phoenix.

A waterway in Oak Flat with the surrounding rocks shrouded in snow.

The San Carlos Apache have been campaigning for years to prevent mining at Oak Flat(Supplied)

Resolution Copper says the planned underground mine, which will be 2 kilometres below ground, will bring nearly 4,000 jobs and tens of billions of dollars in economic benefits to the region.

Dr Nosie likens Oak Flat to Mount Sinai in Egypt, where Moses is said to have been given the Ten Commandments by God.

"Oak Flat is identical to the way they explain Mount Sinai in the Bible," he tells the ABC.

A person sits looking out at Oak Flat in Arizona.

Oak Flat is a sacred site for the San Carlos Apache people. (Supplied)

His group, Apache Stronghold, is suing the US Government to try to stop the land transfer, which he says will destroy their heritage and pollute the land and water.

Resolution Copper denies the approval process has been fast-tracked and says it is consulting with the 11 Native American People in the region.

In a December letter to the Indigenous peoples, Resolution Copper project director Andrew Lye said the proposed mine was at an early stage.

"No final decision to proceed with the mine has been taken, and there will be no immediate change to the public access and land features at Oak Flat," he told them.

Rio Tinto still dealing with fallout from Juukan Gorge destruction

Rubble lies over the site of the Juukan Gorge caves after they were destroyed.

The aftermath of a massive explosion which blew up WA's Juukan Gorge caves. (Supplied)

In May last year, the big miner blew up two ancient rock shelters in the Juukan Gorge to expand a huge iron ore mine in north-west Western Australia's Pilbara region.

The blast destroyed 46,000 years of human history, a site that archaeologists said was of the highest cultural significance for the traditional owners, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP).

Rio's plan to press ahead with the Resolution Copper mine comes after chairman Simon Thompson pledged the company would "never again" destroy such an important sacred site.

Two pictures of a cave. One with coverng of spinifex and sme trees, the other of the same cave but with no vegetation

The Juukan Gorge caves in WA's Pilbara in 2013 (L), and after the land was cleared (R) in 2020 before the site was blasted.(Supplied By PKKP People.)

It has been a steep fall from grace for one of the world's biggest miners.

In 2013, Oxfam said Rio Tinto was the only one of 53 big miners on the Australian stock exchange to have a public commitment to United Nations principles on gaining consent from traditional owners.

But now the big miner's reputation is in tatters amid the fallout from the Juukan Gorge destruction, the fight with the Apache and legal action by villagers in Bougainville, the site of Rio's former Panguna copper mine, which sparked a civil war between Bougainville and Papua New Guinea and left a trail of environmental devastation.

Men can be seen panning for gold at the bottom of the mine.

A small settlement has been built at the bottom of the Panguna mine in Bougainville. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

A revolt by investors over the Juukan Gorge incident forced former chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques and two other top executives to fall on their swords.

federal parliamentary report found the PKKP had been let down by Rio Tinto, the West Australian Government and even its own lawyers in its urgent attempts to stop the destruction of the ancient caves going ahead.

Last month, the PKKP said Rio Tinto had taken steps to address the hurt and devastation caused by the destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves.

But Kurrama elder Burchell Hayes says the big miner has more to do to avoid the unnecessary destruction of cultural heritage sites.

Investors 'disappointed' by appointment of insider as new CEO

Some Rio Tinto investors are unhappy the big miner ignored calls for an Australian to be appointed as the new boss, including from Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, instead appointing chief financial officer Jakob Stausholm as the new chief executive.

A headshot of a Jakob Stausholm.

New Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm. (Supplied: Rio Tinto)

The PKKP says it has noted the appointment.

Debby Blakey, chief executive of the HESTA superannuation fund, which has a major investment in Rio, says there have been very significant governance, oversight, leadership and cultural failures at the company.

"I think this appointment does make us raise questions again," she tells the ABC.

Head of Australian equities at Schroders Martin Conlon told an investment briefing last week most investors would have preferred an "external CEO".

But veteran resources analyst from UBS, Glyn Lawcock, says Rio Tinto is sticking to its current direction with the appointment of Mr Stausholm.

"An internal candidate does suggest they are comfortable with the strategy," he says.

Rio Tinto trying to repair relationship with PKKP

A man inside a dig pit makes notes as he excavates artefacts.

Excavation at Juukan caves in 2014 (Supplied)

Mr Stausholm said last week in a note to staff that consultations with the PKKP were continuing and Rio had imposed a moratorium on mining around Juukan Gorge.

"For this I am truly sorry.

"We are working hard to heal and rebuild our relationships, credibility and reputation — both internally and externally. I do not underestimate the time and effort it will take to achieve this."

Rio Tinto has also appointed former Kimberley Land Council chief executive Wayne Bergmann to help traditional owners set up an Indigenous advisory group to advise the board and senior management.

Deputy chairman of the National Native Title Council, Kado Muir, says the advisory group is a good first step, but Rio needs to completely overhaul its relationship with First Nations people.

"I think on the ground in Western Australia, definitely the iron ore team are trying to effect some change, but obviously it needs a level of leadership from the CEO down," he explains to the ABC.

Questions whether new CEO will bring change

Image of current and former Rio Tinto bosses superimposed in front of the Juukan Gorge.

Many investors are concerned the appointment of internal candidate Jakob Stausholm as Jean-Sebastien Jacques's replacement will leave many of the company's cultural problems unresolved. (ABC News: Alistair Kroie)

Industry sources say Mr Stausholm has a completely different personality to Mr Jacques.

While Mr Jacques had been seen as a crash-or-crash-through, take-no-prisoners leader, Mr Stausholm is described as a measured and more consultative manager who can lead Rio Tinto through a self-inflicted crisis.

He is a former director of oil and gas giant Woodside Petroleum and he is set to spend a lot of time in Australia.

Mr Muir says Mr Stausholm's appointment is an opportunity for change.

"The question is whether they are committed to change and reform, whether they can deliver that internally," he says.

Investors push for board renewal at Rio AGM

Investors are now focused on the Rio Tinto annual general meeting in April and getting change on the board, including the appointment of Indigenous members.

Independent board director and former top Australian public servant Michael L'Estrange is under pressure in the wake of an internal report on the destruction of the caves being slammed as a "whitewash".

Chairman Simon Thompson is also under fire for his handling of the Juukan Gorge incident.

Brynn O'Brien sits at her desk with a pen in hand and a computer and colleague in the background.

Brynn O'Brien leads the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR). (ABC News: John Gunn)

Corporate governance expert Brynn O'Brien from the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility says investors are asking whether the current board is up to the job.

"And, given the indecisiveness and vacillation that we've seen since May last year, I think the chairman's position is also very much in focus."

Call for First Nations board members

Mr Muir says the appointment of Indigenous board members could help improve relations between Rio and traditional owners.

Dr Nosie agrees having traditional owners on the Rio board is important, as long as it is not tokenism.

"But the negative thinking is that is going to be their loophole to get away with the thing that they are doing, because they would say, 'Well, we've consulted with this native person on the board.'"

===

Outcry as Trump officials to transfer sacred Native American land to miners

Critics condemn ‘callous betrayal’ after Trump officials set in motion transfer of Oak Flat to Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton

Protesters in Oak Flat in June 2015. Oak Flat is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its spiritual and cultural significance.

Protesters in Oak Flat in June 2015. Oak Flat is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its spiritual and cultural significance. Photograph: Ross D Franklin/AP

By  - 16. January 2021

As one of its last acts, the Trump administration has set in motion the transfer of sacred Native American lands to a pair of Anglo-Australian mining conglomerates.

The 2,422-acre Arizona parcel called Oak Flat is of enormous significance to the Western Apache and is now on track for destruction by what is slated to be one of the largest copper mining operations in the United States.

Steps for the controversial land transfer from the US government, which owns the land, to the miners were completed on Friday morning, when a final environmental assessment was published. The government must soon transfer title to the land.

Native Americans in the area have compared it to historical attacks on their peoples. “What was once gunpowder and disease is now replaced with bureaucratic negligence,” said Wendsler Nosie, founder of activist organization Apache Stronghold and a member of the Apache band descended from Geronimo. “Native people are treated as something invisible or gone. We are not. We don’t want to be pushed around any more.”

The move comes after the administration sped up the environmental approval process for the transfer by a full year. During a meeting with environmental groups, regional Forest Service officials attributed the accelerated timeline to “pressure from the highest levels” of the US Department of Agriculture, though the government says it is only because the work was finished more quickly than expected.

The recipient of the land is a firm called Resolution Copper, which was set up by the miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

“The Forest Service is clearly jumping through flaming hoops to get this done for Rio Tinto before Trump leaves office,” said Randy Serraglio, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. He called it “a callous betrayal of Native people who value the land as sacred.”

Last May, Rio Tinto blasted a sacred Aboriginal site in western Australia’s Juukan Gorge. The widespread public outcry and investor revolt over the destruction led the Rio Tinto chairman, Simon Thompson, to promise that the company would “never again” destroy sites of “exceptional archaeological and cultural significance” during mining operations.

The Resolution Copper east plant near Superior in Arizona.
The Resolution Copper east plant near Superior in Arizona. Photograph: Nancy Wiechec/Reuters

Called Chi’chil Bildagoteel in Apache, Oak Flat is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its spiritual and cultural significance to at least a dozen south-west Native American peoples. It contains hundreds of indigenous archaeological sites dating back 1,500 years and is a place where the Apache have performed ceremonies for centuries.

Yet thousands of feet beneath Oak Flat is a copper deposit estimated to be one of the largest in the world and worth more than $1bn. If the mine goes forward as planned, it will consume 11 square miles, including Apache burial grounds, sacred sites, petroglyphs and medicinal plants.

Unbeknown to the Indigenous peoples and environmental groups who had long opposed mining Oak Flat, the land transfer was passed by Congress and signed by Barack Obama in December 2014 as a last-minute rider to a Department of Defense spending bill.

The legislation calls for giving Oak Flat to Resolution Copper in exchange for 5,736 acres of its privately held land across Arizona that are desirable for recreation or conservation. While conducting its environmental review, the Forest Service acknowledged that the mine will destroy sites sacred to Native Americans but claimed the loss was an unavoidable consequence of the land exchange mandate.

The San Carlos Apache filed a lawsuit in US district court in Phoenix on Thursday alleging, among other things, that by moving forward with the land exchange the Forest Service is violating the National Historic Preservation Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and an 1852 treaty between the United States and Western Apache clans.

On Friday, in a separate lawsuit, a judge denied Apache Stronghold’s request to delay publication of the environmental assessment. But as a result of litigation and public pressure the Forest Service agreed to delay the land transfer for 55 days.

Apache Stronghold also filed a lien on Oak Flat claiming that the land was owned by the Apache according to the 1852 treaty – under which Oak Flat was deemed a part of the Apache homeland – and the Forest Service did not have legal title to the property.

The Arizona representative Raúl Grijalva and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders also plan to introduce the Save Oak Flat Act in Congress to repeal the land exchange.

First Nations, Indigenous peoples and environmental groups are hopeful Oak Flat can still be preserved. “There are plenty of things an incoming Biden administration can do to stop this,” said Serraglio of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Even if Oak Flat ends up in the hands of Resolution Copper through title transfer “there is no guarantee they will be able to get any of the other federal permits to actually do the mine”.

  • This story was amended on 16 January 2021 to clarify the status of the lawsuits concerning Oak Flat.

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SIMILAR:

In the Spirit of Resistance: Defending the land

11. February 2021

Inuit are blocking an iron ore mine in sub zero temperatures: Read more HERE

Rocky Ridge on the Navajo Nation this week.

Dine' Land and Water, donate at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/dinelandnwater
 

(Above and below)  Standing Rock and Cheyenne River youths ran to the Cannonball River in North Dakota, sending a clear message to President Biden to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Lakota youth runners, who initiated the Standing Rock resistance in 2016, were supported around the nation and world with solidarity actions this week. The youths ran the 93-mile relay in sub-zero temperatures.
 

 

“We did this for one simple reason: the Dakota Access pipeline is illegal. It was pushed on our community, ignoring our treaties, just like Line 3,” said Jordin Sam, member of the Standing Rock Youth Council. "To Build Back Fossil Free, Biden must shut down DAPL and stop Line 3."

“We ran for the water just as we did four years ago. Biden has the opportunity to do right by Indigenous communities and must shut down DAPL and Line 3,” said Joseph White Eyes, member of the Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective. "Pushing these projects without our consent is ruining our way of life."


In Omaha, Nebraska, Ni Bthaska Stand supported the Lakota runners and DAPL shut down in brilliant way.
.

Please see more live videos, and the support received, on Facebook pages for Standing Rock Youth Council and Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective.

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EPA awards 3 companies $220M for cleanup of abandoned uranium mines on Navajo Nation

By Jennifer Weaver - 14. February 2021

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EPA awards 3 companies $220M for cleanup of abandoned uranium mines on Navajo Nation (FILE Photo: Getty)

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded three contracts for the clean-up of more than 50 abandoned uranium mine sites on the Navajo Nation, worth up to $220 million over the next five years.

The majority of the funding comes from the $1 billion Tronox settlement in 2015. According to the EPA, work is scheduled to begin later this year following the completion of assessments in coordination with the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency. A news release stated that the cleanup sites are in New Mexico’s Grants Mining District and in 10 chapters located on the Navajo Nation, which was the primary focus of uranium extraction and production activities for several decades beginning in the 1950s.

The Navajo Area Abandoned Mine Remedial Construction and Services Contracts were awarded to:

  • Red Rock Remediation Joint Venture,
  • Environmental Quality Management Inc.,
  • Arrowhead Contracting Inc.

In addition, the U.S. EPA and the Navajo Nation have secured funding agreements, through enforcement agreements and other legal settlements, for the assessment and clean-up of approximately 200 abandoned uranium mine sites on the Navajo Nation, the news release stated.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a prepared statement:

The Navajo people have endured decades of radiation exposure and contamination caused by uranium mining and production that has taken the lives of many former miners and downwinders and continues to impact the health of our children. We appreciate the U.S. EPA’s efforts to create incentives and opportunities for Navajo Nation residents by working with the contracted companies to develop training programs for our people and businesses to promote professional growth related to abandoned mine clean-ups. We strongly encourage these companies to create more opportunities for Navajo businesses to receive sub-contracts for the work related to assessments and clean-up efforts. We have many Navajo-owned entrepreneurs and businesses that have the expertise and experience to help clean-up our communities.

Each of the companies will develop training programs for Navajo individuals and businesses to promote professional growth in areas related to the AMRCS contract. Workforce training that could be offered by the contractors may cover radiological contamination, health and safety, construction and road building.

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EPA Awards Contracts Worth up to $220 million to Three Companies for Cleanup at Navajo Nation Area Abandoned Uranium Mines

11. February 2021

SAN FRANCISCO – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced three contract awards for cleanup efforts at more than 50 abandoned uranium mine sites in and around the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Area Abandoned Mine Remedial Construction and Services Contracts (AMRCS), worth up to $220 million over the next five years, were awarded to Red Rock Remediation Joint Venture, Environmental Quality Management Inc. and Arrowhead Contracting Inc. 

“EPA continues to work with the Navajo Nation EPA and local communities to address the legacy of abandoned uranium mines,” said Deborah Jordan, Acting Regional Administrator for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest office. “These contract awards mark a significant step in this ongoing work.” 

Most of the funding for the contracts comes from the nearly $1 billion settlement reached in 2015 for the cleanup of more than 50 abandoned uranium mine sites for which Kerr McGee Corporation and its successor, Tronox, have responsibility. In addition to the funds from that Tronox settlement, EPA and Navajo Nation have secured funding agreements, through enforcement agreements and other legal settlements, for the assessment and cleanup of approximately 200 abandoned uranium mine sites on the Navajo Nation.

Work is slated to begin later this year following the completion of assessments in coordination with Navajo Nation’s environmental agency, the Navajo Nation EPA. The sites are in New Mexico’s Grants Mining District and ten Navajo Nation chapters. The companies selected have experience working on hazardous waste sites across the country including cleaning up other abandoned mine sites in the southwest U.S.

EPA worked closely with Navajo Nation to develop contracts that incentivize creating employment opportunities for Navajo residents and building local economic and institutional capacity. The contractors selected are classified as small businesses, two of which are owned by Native Americans. In addition, the companies have partnered with other Navajo-owned firms to ensure Navajo communities benefit economically from the ongoing work to clean up their land. To further direct benefits from this cleanup investment to the Navajo communities affected by this legacy pollution, each company will develop training programs for Navajo individuals and businesses to promote professional growth in areas related to the AMRCS contract. Workforce training that could be offered by the contractors may cover radiological contamination, health and safety, construction and road building. In addition, the contracts require the selectees to provide quarterly reports to the EPA, Navajo Nation, and the public on cleanup progress, training, and Navajo job and business opportunities.

Cleanup of the abandoned uranium mines is a closely coordinated effort between multiple federal agencies and the Navajo Nation. During the Cold War, 30 million tons of uranium ore were mined on or adjacent to the Navajo Nation, leaving more than 500 abandoned mines. Since 2008, EPA has conducted preliminary investigations at all of the mines, completed 113 detailed assessments, cleaned up over 50 contaminated structures, provided safe drinking water to over 3,000 families in partnership with the Indian Health Service, and completed cleanup, stabilization or fencing at 29 mines.

Contact Information: Margot Perez-Sullivan ()

415-947-4149

For more information, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/navajo-nation-uranium-cleanup

Learn more about EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region.

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US Forest Service allows mining company to write its own environmental analysis: report

BY BROOKE SEIPEL - 13. December 2019

US Forest Service allows mining company to write its own environmental analysis: report

© Getty Images

New documents reveal that the Trump administration has let a mining company take on a major role in writing the environmental report that is key to getting its Idaho gold mine project government approval, the Idaho Statesman reports.

According to documents obtained by Earthworks and reported by the Statesman, the U.S. Forest Service is allowing Canadian-based company Midas Gold to take a lead role in the creation of a biological assessment of its proposed open-pit gold mines in central Idaho.

The environmental report would asses the mines' impact on fish protected under the Endangered Species Act, including salmon, steelhead and bull trout. An assessment could shut down Midas Gold’s Stibnite Gold Project if it meant the company had to undertake costly habitat restoration work to protect the surrounding area. 

February 2018 documents show the U.S. Forest Service initially denying Midas Gold's request to take part in the biological assessment, citing concerns that the project would harm endangered animals, but by October 2018, the company was leading the assessment.

Documents also show that the company heavily lobbied the Trump administration while obtaining approval for its involvement in the report, including meetings between Midas Gold and President Trump's deputy under secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's natural resources and environment.

After the meetings, internal documents reportedly show the U.S. Forest Service's opposition to Midas Gold's involvement caving.

Midas Gold's vice president of external affairs told the Statesman that it's normal to be a part of the assessment, calling the process "collaborative" with federal and state officials.

However, some are skeptical of the company's involvement and the Nez Perce people, which has treaty rights to the land, opposes mining. The Nez Perce has cited concerns for nearby fish habitat as the mines would be erected near 80 river miles that are home to federally protected fish.

The Statesman reports that since the 1990s taxpayers have covered $4 million worth of habitat cleanup to restore land left in poor condition by past mining activity in the area.

Midas Gold officials told the Statesman that a draft of the report has not yet been written, but it is expected to inform an environmental impact report set to be released in early 2020.