Kill the sacred or stop the mine

At Oak Flat, the capitalist powers of destruction seem to want to play God - but how does one destroy all that sustains life in favour of scars of death?
An aerial view of Oak Flat lands, red stones and mountains under a blue sky with a layer of white clouds

Oak Flat, Arizona, has been recognized as a sacred place by Indigenous groups for at least a thousand years, and it has been holy for me even in the short time I have been camped here. It is about eleven square miles of rugged terrain, filled with a luxurious abundance and mystery.

Oak Flat has been essential for the Apache as a place to pray, to carry out ceremonies that are integral to their spirituality, and to honour the dead buried there. It is a place of water, healing plants, bountiful oaks, 170 bird species, many kinds of animals and reptiles, and cool mountain air. For the Apache, this air, water, plant, and animal life are all wrapped up in the Creation and thus with the Creator. In my words, it is a thin space where the Creator and the Created can get very close.

Do you know such spaces? Can they be killed or destroyed? Does one kill the Creator? What would that look like? I suspect that would be beyond difficult for the created to achieve.

This sacred space is under threat. Oak Flat could become a two-mile-wide, 1000-foot-deep hole in the ground. What is sacred for us here would be no more. Pure air, clean water, and spaces that grow foods and medicines would be eradicated as the space collapses into the mining hole.

Kill the sacred? What is sacred? Is anything sacred anymore? Think, what is so important it is not for sale? What can we not do without, or better, what really sustains life? Would you include air, water, and soil that grows food?

Stop a mine? Why would anyone want to stop a mine? Resolution Copper is a joint effort of Rio Tinto, an Australian mining conglomerate, and BHP, another foreign mining company who are planning to dig the largest copper mine in the world, destroying sacred land.  Resolution Copper tries to justify the destruction of the true green of oak and manzanita, claiming that it is needed for the “green” economy while putting forth a plan that would add enormously to the destruction of the earth. 

Mining copper demands huge amounts of water, with black plastic pipes now snaking out of Oak Flat. The Colorado River system that services this region has already been depleted, cutting off populated communities as the water supply decreases. The current vertical shaft is thirty feet wide and plans are to extend the horizontal runs under Oak Flat to extract the copper. The company is petitioning to send its toxic waste into irrigation canals where surface crops would absorb it and residue would be scattered by common dust storms.  Huge piles of toxic tailings would tower above the local town of Superior and eventually contaminate the soil, air, and water of the Phoenix Valley downstream.

I walked to the mine entrance today where signs warn travellers that this is private property and no trespassing will be allowed. Constant surveillance and pickup-mounted guards secure the site.

During my long treks today I noticed many things that gently counter that power and security.  Just before the mine entrance was a large bush, totally in bloom and covered with pollinators. Low to the earth were wee tiny blooms of all varieties. The red-twigged manzanita were in such heavy bloom that the air was laden with the rich honey-scented pollen. 

A song came to mind as I made my way home. 

God bless the grass that grows up through the crack.
They roll the cement over it and try to keep it back.
But the concrete gets tired of what it has to do.
It breaks and it buckles and the grass grows through.
God bless the truth that reaches for the sun.
They roll their lies over it and think that it is done.
But it moves underground and searches for the air and after a while it is growing everywhere. 
God bless the grass so gentle and low. 
Its roots they are deep and its will is to grow. 
God bless the truth, the friend of the poor,
and the wild grass growing at the poor one’s door. 
God bless the grass.

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