Apaches get new chance to save sacred Arizona site from mining project

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An Apache group battling a overseas mining patient that wants to build 1 of nan largest copper mines successful nan United States connected what tribal members opportunity is ineffable onshore will get a caller chance to make its constituent Tuesday erstwhile a afloat national appeals tribunal sheet takes different look astatine nan case.

The sheet of 11 judges connected nan 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to meet Tuesday greeting astatine a Pasadena, California, courthouse to reappraisal nan entreaty by Apache Stronghold to prevention Oak Flat, a tract eastbound of Phoenix nan group considers sacred.

"This isn’t conscionable astir Oak Flat, but astir each cases involving American Indian ineffable tract litigation," said Luke Goodrich, nan lawyer who will beryllium arguing for Apache Stronghold. Goodrich is vice president and elder counsel astatine nan nonprofit ineligible institution Becket Law, which takes up cases involving belief freedom.


Apache Stronghold sued nan U.S. authorities nether nan 30-year-old Religious Freedom Restoration Act, saying that its plans to transportation nan Oak Flat onshore to nan mining patient done a onshore switch would spot an undue load connected tribal members seeking to believe their religion.

A smaller 9th Circuit sheet antecedently ruled 2-1 that nan national authorities could springiness nan Oak Flat onshore to Resolution Copper for a mining task that would swallow nan site, ending Apache belief practices there. The tribunal later agreed to fto a larger sheet rehear nan case.

A last determination was not expected Tuesday, and it could beryllium respective months earlier 1 is issued, Goodrich said.

Apache Stronghold personnel Raetana Manny, 4, shows a motion to prevention Oak Flat, a tract eastbound of Phoenix that nan group considers sacred, successful Los Angeles connected March 20, 2023. 

Apache Stronghold personnel Raetana Manny, 4, shows a motion to prevention Oak Flat, a tract eastbound of Phoenix that nan group considers sacred, successful Los Angeles connected March 20, 2023.  (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Apache Stronghold members traveled from Arizona for nan hearing, stopping astatine cities on nan measurement to tie attraction to nan case. They gathered Monday astatine a organization arts halfway successful nan Los Angeles vicinity of Boyle Heights.

Called Chi’chil Bildagoteel, Oak Flat is dotted pinch ancient oak groves and accepted plants nan Apaches see basal to their religion.

An biology effect study for nan task has been pulled backmost while nan U.S. Department of Agriculture has consulted for months pinch Native American tribes and others astir their concerns complete Oak Flat. The biology study will person to beryllium republished earlier a switch of nan Tonto National Forest onshore tin spell forward.


The onshore transportation was a last-minute proviso included successful a must-pass defense bill successful 2014. The switch would springiness nan mining institution 3.75 quadrate miles of nationalist wood onshore successful speech for 8 parcels it owns successful different parts of Arizona.

"We respect nan ineligible process and are intimately pursuing this case," Resolution Copper, a associated task of world mining firms Rio Tinto and BHP, said successful a connection connected nan eve of nan hearing. "At nan aforesaid time, we judge that settled precedent supports nan territory court’s rejection of Apache Stronghold’s claims."

"There is important section support for nan Resolution Copper project, and we will proceed our efforts to understand and reside immoderate concerns that person been raised," nan connection said.


It added that nan task has nan imaginable to proviso capable copper to meet up to 1 4th of U.S. demand, adding up to $1 cardinal a twelvemonth to Arizona’s economy and creating thousands of section jobs,

The Poor People’s Campaign, biology groups and nan National Congress of American Indians are among galore groups backing Apache Stronghold’s fight.

The Notre Dame Law School Religious Liberty Clinic has revenge a "friend of nan court" little successful nan case. Stephanie Barclay, head of Notre Dame’s Religious Liberty Initiative, will participate successful oral arguments.