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U.S. Forest Service Begins Ownership Transfer Of Sacred Site For Copper Mine

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File

The U.S. Forest Service has released the final environmental review for a controversial land exchange in Arizona.

The move begins the process of transferring ownership of the Oak Flat area on the Tonto National Forest to the international mining giant Rio Tinto, and paves the way for what would be one of the largest copper mines in the country.

The group Apache Stronghold has fought the project for years and says the area is a sacred site to the San Carlos Apache Tribe. The tribe and environmental groups accuse forest officials of rushing through the transfer before President Trump leaves office next week. The Forest Service, however, says the process wasn't fast-tracked. 

Rio Tinto says it’s committed to working with tribes to preserve cultural heritage. Governor Doug Ducey applauded the project and says it’ll provide jobs and billions in economic impact for the state.

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