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‹ The Weekly Green

The Sacred and the Profane

April 18, 2016

In December of 2014 the Rio Tinto mining company convinced the US Congress to authorize a land exchange which would allow it to carve a copper mine out of the Oak Flat area in the Tonto National Forest near Superior. Opponents claim that Oak Flats would be lost as a popular recreation area and, moreover, that the project, named the Resolution Copper mine, would also desecrate a site sacred to the Apaches and  severely upset the ecology of this wild and beautiful area, which has been protected from development since 1955. They claim the deal was disingenious, to put it politely. The San Carlos Apache and their sympathizers have occupied the Oak Flat campground since February of last year. The National Park Service has recently  listed Oak Flat in the National Register of Historic Places, but this action has come under heavy fire, notably from AZ representatives Paul Gosar and Ann Kirkpatrick.

Global demand for copper is rising by half a million metric tons a year, fueled by new construction and the spread of modern technology. Current production worldwide is about 18 miilion metric tons. Although mankind has used copper for at least 10,000 years, 97% of all copper ever mined has been extracted in the last century. Copper is highly recyclable and reused copper is a significant part of the market, but ultimately it is a finite resource.  There have been estimates of when the supply of extractable copper will be depleted ranging from the middle to the end of this century. Then again, the estimated reserves have doubled in the past twenty years on account of the development of ever more sophisticated extraction technologies. However that may be, global annual consumption gobbles up the equivalent of three mines the size of the one proposed at Oak Flat.

The downside is explained quite well at

The other side of the coin can be found at (mistakenly named in the broadcast) and on the site of AZ representative Paul Gosar at

The U.S. Department of Agriculture give a more neutral overview of the issue at

The Forest Service has opened the project for public comment in the context of its environmental impact study. You have until July 18th to submit your view.

Email Tonto National Forest Supervisor Neil Bosworth at              [email protected],

send a letter to
Resolution EIS Comments
P.O. Box 34468
Phoenix, AZ 85067-4468

send a fax or leave a voice message at


(Broadcast 3:30)


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