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April 30th, 2010
Arizona Native American Communities Announce Unified Opposition to Resolution Copper Proposal in New Letter

Washington, D.C. – The twenty Native American Tribes, Nations and Communities of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ITCA) have announced their joint opposition to the Resolution Copper mining proposal in northern Arizona, citing the extent of the project’s expected damage to environmental and cultural resources and the lack of tribal consultation in the permitting process.

In an April 29 letter, the ITCA asks House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall to oppose H.R. 2509 and H.R.4880 – and a Senate companion, S.409 – which together seek to grant Rio Tinto and its American affiliate, BHP Billiton, extensive mining rights in Native American territory. The letter says the proposed mine would damage “an extremely sensitive area for Tribes of Arizona from the standpoint of American Indian sacred sites, religion, culture, and history as well as the environment and hydrology of the region.”

Among the bill’s shortcomings, the letter says, is its lack of a requirement for a full environmental impact statement on the project. Executive Order 13007, the letter points out, requires government agencies, including the Department of the Interior, to “accommodate access to and ceremonial use of Indian sacred sites [and] avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of such sacred sites.”

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, who chairs the committee’s National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands panel, said the letter “is yet another reminder of why tribal consultation is such an important principle in federal activities. By seeking to appropriate this land without tribal input, Rio Tinto and the supporters of these bills have ignored the legal considerations afforded Native American communities in this country. We are reminded today that this is not acceptable. The ITCA’s role has been ignored for too long, and this letter is a timely reminder that tribal considerations do not take a back seat in this process.”

Grijalva said he would continue to meet with stakeholders to seek an alternative approach that guarantees the protection of sacred sites, shields ecosystems that are sacred to regional Tribes, and retains access for cultural religious and recreational uses.

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