Justice Department argues Pinal copper mine land swap doesn’t violate treaties

Aerial view of part of the Resolution Copper Project, the town of Superior and Queen Creek Canyon. U.S. 60 goes up the canyon, right, and the Resolution exploration shaft and facilities are at the canyon’s south rim, at right center (white). Oak Flat campground is beyond the Resolution facilities./Wikipedia 

By Peter Aleshire, publications editor for Payson Roundup, White Mountain Independent, publications of Kramer Media.

(Disclosure: Rose Law Group represents Resolution Copper.)

The Biden administration has now argued in court that the land exchange to make possible a massive copper mine near Superior should go forward despite objections lodged by members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe.

The administration had paused the 2,400-acre land exchange for the Resolution Copper Mine, after the outgoing Trump administration had fast-tracked final approval. The Justice Department has now filed legal briefs to oppose claims by environmental and Apache groups that the exchange violates treaties and religious freedom laws.

The proposed copper mine deep underground could ultimately create a 1,000-foot-deep, 2-mile-wide crater beneath Oak Flat, or Chi’chil Bildagoteel. Apache groups maintain Oak Flats is sacred ground. The jumbled landscape of boulders and oaks also remains popular with climbers and campers.

However, much of the area was charred by the recent Telegraph Fire.

The U.S. Justice Department has filed a brief with the 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals maintaining that the land trade will not impose “a substantial burden on anyone, even if it severely impacts their religious exercise.”

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