Native Americans in Arizona protest against $6bn Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton copper mine

5 February 2015 (Last Updated February 5th, 2015 18:30)

Native Americans in Arizona are protesting against Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton over their plans to build a $6bn copper mine on a sacred federal land claimed by a local tribe.

Copper Mine

Native Americans in Arizona are protesting against Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton over their plans to build a $6bn copper mine on a sacred federal land claimed by a local tribe.

As a mark of protest, Native Americans belonging to the San Carlos Apache Tribe, as well as several environmentalists are set to attend a 'spiritual gathering' near the site.

In December, a land swap legislation was passed by the US Congress and President Obama permitted the mining companies to acquire 980ha of federally protected public land at the Tonto National Forest in southeast Arizona.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the mine, which is partly constructed, is not facing opposition by all the local tribe leaders.

The copper mine will not be operational until after 2020.

San Carlos Apache Tribe former chairwoman Kathy Kitcheyan said that the land swap will improve job opportunities for the tribe.

The core of the legislation is exchanging 2,400 acres of land above the copper deposit, which is said to be federally owned, for 5,300 acres of land that is owned by Resolution Copper and used for recreational and conservation, as well as other culturally significant land throughout Arizona.

Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton have already invested more than $1bn on drilling and digging a 1.3-mile shaft on the opposed land.

The land swap was initially proposed nine years ago and was tucked away in the annual defence policy bill passed by the US Senate.


Image: Resolution copper mine in US. Photo: courtesy of Resolution Copper Mining.