The lawsuit is seeking to prevent the publication of the final environmental impact statement on January 15 that would trigger the transfer of the land to Resolution.
“Chi’chil Bildagoteel is central to our traditional religion and identity as Apache people,” former San Carlos Apache tribal chairman and Apache Stronghold leader Wendsler Nosie Sr said.
“Giving away our sacred land by the US Government for destruction by a foreign mining company destroys our ability to practice our religion.”
The lawsuit comes as Rio Tinto and the wider mining sector face heightened scrutiny over their treatment of First Nations peoples following Rio’s destruction of two 46,000-year-old Aboriginal rock shelters in Western Australia.
The saga led to the departure of former Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques, with its new CEO Jakob Stausholm vowing that restoring trust and rebuilding relationships with traditional owners would be one of his top priorities.
Resolution Copper said it was committed to ongoing engagement with the US Forest Service, tribes and the local community “to continue shaping the project and deliver initiatives that recognise and protect cultural heritage”.
“Resolution Copper is reviewing the complaint filed by the Apache Stronghold against the United States government,” a spokesman said.
The San Carlos Apache Tribe, which has 17,000 members, is one of 11 Native American tribes with land within or near the land exchange, including the Oak Flat campground, Apache Leap,
Under the US National Environmental Protection Act, consultations with Native American groups to date concerning the area’s historical, cultural and religious significance have been the responsibility of the US Forest Service, not Resolution Copper.
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