Sanders, Baldwin Introduce Bill to Stop Land Giveaway, Protect Native American Place of Worship

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) introduced legislation today to stop the transfer of federal land to a foreign-owned corporation, which plans to develop the largest copper mine in North America. The land, known as Oak Flat, is located in the Tonto National Forest and has significant religious and cultural value to Apaches, Yavapais, and other Native Americans in the region.

“Too many times our Native American brothers and sisters have seen the profits of huge corporations put ahead of their sovereign rights,” Sanders said. “It is wrong that a backroom deal in Washington could lead to the destruction of a sacred area that is so important to so many. We must defend the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are standing in opposition to this giveaway of our natural resources to foreign corporations.”

The Save Oak Flat Act repeals a section of the National Defense Authorization Act that approved the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange Act. Proponents of the Land Exchange added the provision to the 1,700-page bill the night before it came up for consideration.

The Land Exchange circumvents existing federal protections for Native American sacred and cultural areas. The companies who will receive the land under the deal, Rio Tinto P.L.C. and its subsidiary Resolution Copper, will reap tens of billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer assets from the exchange. The proposed mine will collapse the surface of the land, destroying forever a Native American place of worship and threatening our First Americans’ traditions and ways of life. Resolution Copper says the copper ore mined will likely be shipped out of the United States.

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) introduced the bill in the House of Representatives earlier this year and the legislation currently has 36 bipartisan co-sponsors. 

Click here to read the bill. 

Click here to read a summary of the bill.