HELENA, MT – Today, the lame-duck Trump administration approved a controversial public land swap for foreign mining corporation Rio Tinto Ltd., paving the way for the corporation to move forward with its plan to develop a destructive copper mine under sacred Native America lands that will create a nearly two-mile-wide crater as the mine caves in on itself.
“This rushed land swap and approval of the destructive foreign-owned Resolution Copper Mine on sacred land by the U.S. Forest Service is emblematic of the culture of corruption across the Trump administration. Between the foreign corporation’s former lobbyist that spun through the revolving door into the administration and top-level cabinet officials tipping the scale in Rio Tinto’s favor, it’s unfortunately not surprising that indigenous and local communities’ objections were completely ignored,” said Western Values Project director Jayson O’Neill.
The U.S. Forest Service and EPA published a final environmental impact statement for the mine that greenlit the land swamp a mere five days before the Biden administration is set to take office. Although both the Forest Service and Rio Tinto deny that the project was fast-tracked to be approved before the next administration, federal records uncovered by the New York Times show that study wasn’t expected to be completed until mid-2021.
Local Arizona Indigenous communities have been outspoken about their frustrations and objections to the devastating industrial development that would destroy cultural and sacred land, forcing them to file suit after being completely ignored. The former San Carlos Apache tribal chairman told the HuffPost, “We’re looking at a disaster for our children and grandchildren that are yet to be born.” The Trump administration has never shied away from giving away sacred lands and disregarding input from locally impacted communities in order to uplift special interests.
It’s unclear why Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had at least three meetings with Rio Tinto and visited the site in 2020. In addition, several former lobbyists that lobbied on behalf of Rio Tinto were hired by the Trump administration for key Interior Department positions. Read Western Values Project full research here.