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Tribal Group Files Lien, Restraining Order To Halt Federal Land Swap

Ryan Heinsius

A tribal group in Arizona has filed a lien and temporary restraining order to try to block a federal land exchange. They say a proposed copper mine threatens a sacred site on the Tonto National Forest. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The group Apache Stronghold filed a lien to prevent the transfer of title for Oak Flat to the company Rio Tinto while a federal lawsuit is heard. The group also asked the judge in the case to block the U.S. Forest Service from publishing the final environmental impact statement for the proposed Resolution Copper Mine. The agency plans to release the statement Friday, which would begin the land exchange process.

Apache Stronghold has fought the land swap for years and argues the federal government is violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the San Carlos Apache Tribe’s rights to religious freedom and due process.

Oak Flat is considered sacred to many tribal members, and has been the site of coming-of-age and other ceremonies and cultural practices for centuries.

A spokesperson for the Forest Service says the agency doesn’t comment on pending or ongoing litigation.  

The copper mine slated for the site would be one of the largest in the U-S, taking up 11 square miles and extending 7,000 feet below the surface.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom 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 frequent contributor to NPR.
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