USA: Indigenous groups oppose Rio Tinto & BHP copper mine due to potential negative impacts on cultural rights & the environment
Australian mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP face opposition from Native American communities and conservation groups over a planned joint venture, Resolution Copper (55% owned by Rio Tinto and 45% owned by BHP), to build a copper mine in Arizona in the United States. In January 2021, a lawsuit was filed by the nonprofit Apache Stronghold aimed at stopping a transfer of Tonto National Forest land, including Oak Flat, to Resolution Copper.
The Oak Flat area, known as Chi’chil Bildagoteel, is considered sacred by Apache and other Native people and has been used for centuries for ceremony, sustenance, and habitation. According to former San Carlos Apache tribal chairman and Apache Stronghold leader Wendsler Nosie Sr, “Chi’chil Bildagoteel is central to our traditional religion and identity as Apache people… Giving away our sacred land by the US Government for destruction by a foreign mining company destroys our ability to practice our religion.”
Concerns have also been expressed about potential impacts of toxic waste on the nearby wildlands and water contamination.
In February 2021, a federal judge decided not to issue a preliminary injunction, thus leaving the land swap to Resolution Copper unimpeded.
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Rio Tinto and BHP to respond to these concerns. The companies’ responses are linked below.