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Native American Tribes seek injunction against Hudbay Mineral's to desecrate burial ground

Mining News - Published on Mon, 20 May 2019

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Earth Justice reported that three Native American Tribes have filed a preliminary injunction against Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals to stop its plans to raze lands which encompass the Tribes’ burial grounds, ancient village sites, and sacred sites. The Tribes’ ancestral sites stand to be obliterated to pave the way for what would be the third largest copper mine in the United States - and quick profits for Hudbay Minerals. Earthjustice is representing the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and the Hopi Tribe in court.

Now, even before the court has a chance to rule on the merits of the cases, the Tribes are again facing the threat of irreversible cultural destruction after suffering similar abuse in the 1980s, when the Anamax Mining Company excavated gravesites in preparation for developing a mine that it ended up abandoning. The company mishandled the burial grounds, and while they removed some of the ancestral remains, they left graves and the village grounds open to the elements when the company abandoned the site a few years later. The Tribes’ ancestral remains were shipped to the University of Arizona, where they were warehoused for thirty years while the Tribes fought to repatriate them. They were only returned to the Tohono O’odham Nation several years ago.

Austin Nunez, Chairman of the San Xavier District of the Tohono O’odham Nation, said that “We are asking the court to halt Hudbay’s imminent plans to destroy our ancestral lands and archaeological sites at their proposed Rosemont Mine. We suffered grave cultural harms when the Anamax Mining Company desecrated our burial sites in this same very place in the 1980s. We cannot risk any further harm to our ancestral heritage and must protect this place of great cultural and natural beauty for future generations.”

History is repeating itself. But this time, the Trump administration has cleared the way for the mine, disregarding environmental laws and the unacceptable cultural destruction. Two months ago, the US Army Corps of Engineers abruptly granted a critical Clean Water Act permit for the mine, ignoring over eight years of opposition from the Environmental Protection Agency, Native American Tribes, and the Corps’ own Los Angeles District (which recommended denial of the permit in 2016). Despite its obligation to protect these public lands and cultural sites, the Forest Service acquiesced to the mine on the unfounded assumption that the company had a right under the 1872 Mining Law to dump waste rock and tailings on public lands of great cultural significance to Native American Tribes.

Hopi Vice-Chairman Clark W Tenakhongva, said that “The history of the Hopi people extends to many places within and beyond the Southwestern United States, and the area of the proposed Rosemont mine is no exception. It is a landscape in which numerous Hopi clans both lived and migrated through. Evidence of their history and lives here and can be found in the numerous ancient structures that are spread throughout the area. Mining would ultimately bring about the destruction of these sites and deprive the Hopi people of the opportunity to teach our children about their past.”

Hudbay Minerals’ plans include clearing 23 known archeological sites in the Santa Ritas that include ancestral burial sites. The company would target Gaylor Ranch, a historic Hokokam village, proposing to completely excavate this site and remove the remains of the Tribes’ ancestors within the first two months of construction. Hudbay Minerals intends to remove human remains, funerary objects, sacred items, and objects of cultural patrimony by digging backhoe trenches, mechanically stripping the site, and shovel stripping the land.

Stu Gillespie, staff attorney with Earthjustice, said that “This is a sorry example of the Trump administration evading the law and disregarding the heritage of Native American Tribes to pave the way for a highly destructive open pit copper mine. To add to this injustice, Hudbay Minerals now intends to race forward with the destruction of ancient tribal sites before we can even obtain a ruling from the court to right this wrong.”

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Posted By : Rabi Wangkhem on Mon, 20 May 2019
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