Superior mayor, tribal officials spar over bill to stop Oak Flat mine

Planning on the Resolution Copper mine near Superior has been going on for years, as have protests like the one at this encampment in 2016. Opponents say the mine will destroy Oak Flat, an area sacred to the San Carlos Apache, and cause environmental harm. Supporters say the mine will produce jobs and much-needed copper. /File photo by Bri Cossavella/Cronkite News

By Sarah Oven/Cronkite News

The mayor of Superior told a House panel Tuesday that a bill canceling a massive copper mine at Oak Flat would be “devastating” for the Pinal County town and its hopes to revitalize its economy.

“We need to create jobs and business opportunities for our youth and working adults, so our community remains viable for generations to come,” Mayor Mila Besich told a House Natural Resources subcommittee.

But while Besich testified against a bill to reverse the land deal that cleared the way for the Resolution Mine, others said the environmental and cultural danger the mine presents call for the project’s cancellation. Tribal groups in particular said the mine would destroy Oak Flat, land that the San Carlos Apache consider sacred and use for religious ceremonies and rituals.

“These are things that are absolutely essential to our identity and to our spiritual health,” said National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp, when asked to balance the benefits of the mine with the cultural damage. “It’s unconscionable to think that we’re even having that question.”

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