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Tonto NF Supervisor Meets with Native Americans Protesting Resolution Copper Mine

Jennifer Johnson

Earlier this week, the supervisor of the Tonto National Forest met with a group of Native Americans hoping to prevent copper mining at a sacred site east of Phoenix. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, recent federal legislation cleared the way for the Oak Flat area to become part of North America’s largest copper mine.

Last year’s Defense Authorization Act approved a land swap allowing 2,400 acres of forest to be mined by Resolution Copper. It would include Oak Flat, a ceremonial site and burial ground of the San Carlos Apache Tribe.

For two weeks tribal members have been encamped at Oak Flat to protest and conduct ceremonies. Tonto National Forest Supervisor Neil Bosworth is working on a plan to allow the group to remain there beyond the forest’s two-week camping limit.

Carrie Templin, a public affairs officer for the Tonto, says Bosworth’s aim is to create an open dialogue.

“They are interested in being able to stay at the site to conduct some ceremonies. Neil would very much like to work to find an agreeable solution,” Templin says.

The copper mining project is supported by Congressional representatives Ann Kirkpatrick and Paul Gosar, as well as Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake. They say the mine would create 4,000 jobs and $60 billion in revenue for Arizona.

Some environmentalists and recreationists have also joined in opposition of the project. An environmental impact statement must first be completed before the mine receives final authorization. That process has yet to be initiated.

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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