Last spring, I had the opportunity to do CRM in one of the most beautiful places ever.
Tonto National Forest near Superior, Arizona.
My sh@#$y instagram photo does not do it justice.
As much as I enjoyed hiking around that area looking for archaeology, I felt like a harbinger of doom.
We were scoping out proposed “pads” for mineral exploration. In other words, a mining company got permission from the National Forest to drill in select locations to see if there were minerals worth exploiting.
Compared to the budget of the actual drilling operation, archaeology was the rounding error of their budget.
Then the representative from the mineral exploration company pointed to a nearby mountain and said, “Well, we’re the rounding on THEIR budget.”
Since I was pretty clueless, I asked, “What do you mean? Who are you referring to?”
He was referring to Rio Tinto, a multi-national mining corporation that was gearing up to mine one of the biggest copper discoveries of all time, and it was under THAT mountain he was pointing at.
THAT mountain was Apache Leap.
Ring a bell? This happened there.
Needless to say, it’s kind of a big deal if you’re Apache. And it should be a big deal if you’re an American. And it should be a big deal if you’re a human.
Maybe I read a little too much Howard Zinn growing up, but history matters, and that includes the moments we’re not particularly proud of.
As archaeologists, we should be rather appalled that Congress slipped a proposed land swap that gives Resolution Copper (owned by Rio Tinto) the land in question in exchange for land elsewhere. Bottomline – It gives federal land that is historically significant and now sacred to the Apache to a foreign entity all in the name of economic development.
If you’re so inclined, there’s a whitehouse.gov petition protesting this.
I signed it, because that place is beautiful, and it’s hallowed ground. There are jobs and copper to be found elsewhere.
Frankly, if this place isn’t sacred, what is? What isn’t off limits? Considering the number of mound sites and the frequency of fracking in eastern North America, we’ll probably be fighting these types of battles to save significant sites in our own backyards with increasing regularity.