Apache tribe members & supporters at a rally in 2019. Image credit: Sandra Rambler/Censored News


Mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP have been accused of using the dying days of the Trump administration to push ahead with their controversial copper mine on sacred Native American land at Oak Flat in Arizona US, laying bare Rio Tinto’s broken promises to never let another Juukan Gorge type catastrophe happen again.

The US Forest Service has admitted to bowing to political pressure to publish a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which will trigger a 60-day deadline to privatise the site and turn it over to the mining companies. That publication is set to take place Friday of this week (US time), making it the first time in US history that a Native American sacred site on public land will be handed to a foreign-owned mining company, according to mining advocacy group, Arizona Mining Reform Coalition.

The National Native Title Council (NNTC) believes this is further demonstration of Australia’s urgent need for stronger cultural heritage laws at the federal level that ensure Traditional Owners are the ultimate decision makers in relation to their cultural heritage. NNTC CEO Jamie Lowe stated:

“Time and again mining companies demonstrate to us that they cannot be trusted to self-regulate, despite their rhetoric. Rio Tinto has left a trail of destruction at Bougainville and Juukan Gorge, and now, despite promises made by the company to overhaul its Indigenous engagement and cultural heritage practices, it is choosing to ignore pleas from Oak Flat’s Traditional Owners, the San Carlos Apache Tribe, and push ahead with the destruction of sacred land.”

“Now more than ever we need the Commonwealth Government to show leadership and implement stronger cultural heritage protection nationally. Australia’s current cultural heritage legislation disempowers Traditional Owners. We need national standards based on the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which Australia is a signatory to. Traditional Owners should have decision making power over the management of their own cultural heritage.”

“We stand in solidarity with the San Carlos Apache Tribe and urge Rio Tinto and BHP to reconsider their copper mine plans and the spiritual, cultural and environmental harm it would cause.”

Graphic courtesy of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition



For more information please contact Megan Giles – or 0433 028 567

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