CPT’s Turtle Island Solidarity Network has begun a presence at Oak Flat (Chi’chil Biłdagoteel), a sacred site for the San Carlos Apache in Arizona in the United States. CPT members are accompanying Apache Stronghold in prayer and action to protect Oak Flat.
Oak Flat is under imminent threat from the mining corporation Resolution Copper (a wholly owned subsidiary of Rio Tinto and BHP). In 2014, a back-door deal resulted in the US government pushing legislation through Congress that laid out a plan to transfer the land to Resolution Copper. The legislation exempts the project from environmental regulation.
Resolution Copper does not have the official approval to begin mining in Oak Flat yet they have already started setting the stage for their operations. Company representatives have pressured surrounding communities to support the mine, making promises of prosperity that are not borne out by the company’s historical record. Resolution Copper has begun digging mine shafts on land overlooking Oak Flat, which they are using for “dewatering” – draining precious groundwater from the soil beneath sacred springs and the roots of ancient oaks. If mining proceeds, Oak Flat will be destroyed entirely, as the company plans to extract copper using a “block cave” technique which would cause the land to collapse into a giant sinkhole.
For the people of the land, Chi’chil Biłdagoteel is irreplaceable. Since time immemorial, it has been the place where Apache people have gathered to connect with the land and the Creator, harvest medicinal plants and celebrate rites of passage. It is the place where Ga’an dwell — guardians or messengers between the people and Usen, the creator.
History has shown that extractive industries extract all the wealth and leave nothing but the destroyed landscape and sickness due to contaminated water and air. Join us in praying for wisdom and strength for Apache Stronghold leaders, as they prayerfully resist the destruction the mine at Oak Flat would bring. May we pray together for the protection of this sacred place.