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Background:

As part of a slew of rushed actions by the outgoing Trump administration, today the US Forest Service published the Final Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Record of Decision on a controversial land swap that would allow Resolution Copper, a partnership between BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, to build what would become the country’s largest copper mine on lands sacred to the San Carlos Apache tribe and other nearby Indigenous peoples. The Oak Flat land parcel, known to Apache people as Chi’chil Biłdagoteel, is part of the Tonto National Forest. Opposition to the project stretches back decades, including from Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, who both withdrew Oak Flat from mining considerations.

Also today, the Bureau of Land Management is expected to file the Record of Decision on Lithium America’s Thacker Pass project, a proposed lithium mine in Nevada. The project sets an unacceptably low bar for environmental permitting according to Nevada mining watchdog organizations including Great Basin Resource Watch. GBRW has raised concerns regarding the project’s potential impacts on water, air and wildlife, as well as inadequate consultation with communities. GBRW’s Director, John Hadder says “Trump’s Interior Department dumped three mining project actions on Nevadans in December with short comment periods over the Christmas and New Years’ holiday period. The public process has been fast on all of these and favors corporate interest over concerns of the affected communities.”

Below is a statement from Lauren Pagel, Earthworks Policy Director:

“The Trump administration has spent four years trying to gut already weak public and environmental oversight of the hardrock mining industry. Rushing these actions through at the last minute is an attempt to undermine the will of families and communities that have to live with the pollution of these massive projects. They come at the expense, yet again, of Indigenous peoples, water, and wildlife.

“Secretaries Haaland and Vilsack will take office tasked with undoing these grave injustices. I am optimistic that, under their leadership, we can reform mining rules to empower and protect communities, rather than freely give public lands and waters away to the mining industry.”

Brendan McLaughlin, 206.892.8832, bmclaughlin@earthworksaction.org