Chi’chil Bildagoteel, in the Tonto National Forest of Arizona, is a part of the ancestral, sacred land of the San Carlos Apache and other local indigenous nations. This rich desert ecosystem is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a Traditional Cultural Property, and was protected from mining in 1955 by President Eisenhower.
Despite Chi’chil Bildagoteel’s cultural and spiritual significance, two of the world’s largest multinational mining companies, Rio Tinto and BHP and their American subsidiary Resolution Copper, are poised to decimate the land with a mining technique that would collapse the area into a one-mile-wide, 1000-foot-deep crater. The mine would not only desecrate indigenous sacred sites and completely destroy the topography, it would also heavily deplete and pollute the area’s water resources. In previous years, all thirteen attempts to turn the land over to Resolution Copper were defeated in Congress. However, in 2014, two senators made a backroom deal and attached a “midnight rider” into a must-pass defense spending bill, trading the land to Resolution Copper.
The Apache Stronghold, an Apache-led organization, along with both indigenous and settler allies have managed to temporarily postpone the swap until now with prayer, action and lawsuits; however, the land is still at critical risk of being turned over to Resolution Copper. The Save Oak Flat Act (H.R. 1884/S. 915) was reintroduced to Congress in 2021 and would guarantee long-term protection for Chi’chil Bildagoteel by repealing the law that allowed for the land-swap. It is imperative that enough voices reach Congress in support of the Save Oak Flat Act to preserve this sacred land.