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House Bill Would Reverse Controversial Land Swap and Copper Mine on Tonto NF

Ryan Heinsius

An Arizona congressman has introduced a bill to stop a proposed copper mine on the Tonto National Forest. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, Tucson Rep. Raul Grijalva wants to reverse the federal land swap that paved the way for the mine.

Grijalva says his bipartisan Save Oak Flat Act would protect the area from development of what would be the largest copper mine in North America. It’s considered sacred, ancestral land by many clans of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. Protestors have been camped out at the site for nearly five months.

The land swap was part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. It allowed for the Rio Tinto company to swap several other parcels of land with the federal government in exchange for the Oak Flat area.

Mine supporters like Senator John McCain say the project will bring billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to the state over 60 years, the mine’s expected lifespan. He also says it’ll give an economic boost to the San Carlos Apache Reservation, where unemployment hovers around 70 percent.

Grijalva’s bill asserts that the mine will result in the “physical destruction of tribal scared areas and deprive Native Americans of practicing their religion.”

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