Native Americans hope to protect ancestral sites threatened by multibillion-dollar copper mine – by Daisy Finch (Cronkite News – December 7, 2018)

Cronkite News

TONTO NATIONAL FOREST – LeRoy Shingoitewa dug his hiking boots into loose gravel and sand, watching the early November morning sunlight slowly spread across shrubby hills and rocky valleys near the proposed site of an enormous copper mine.

Resolution Copper plans to develop the mine east of Superior and predicts the mine will meet about a quarter of the nation’s demand for copper once it is in full production. The company says the mine, which may cost as much as $8 billion, is the “largest single investment in Arizona history.”

It has been passionately opposed by some Native Americans who say it will destroy a sacred site near Oak Flat Campground in the Tonto National Forest about 70 miles east of Phoenix. The Resolution Copper-Oak Flat controversy is not lost on Shingoitewa, even though he’s a field director for a team of Native American “tribal monitors” chosen for a program funded by Resolution Copper and designed with help from the U.S. Forest Service.

The monitors are charged with documenting culturally significant Native American sites that could be affected by the mine, which is expected to cover 11 square miles. They hope their work will help save at least some of what’s at stake – the ancestral lands and cultural resources that are part of who they are. “I think all of the tribes have the same thought process … we’d rather you not disturb this area. Our ancestors are here,” Shingoitewa, a Hopi, told Cronkite News.

Shingoitewa, who’s 40 with graying sideburns and an easy smile, lives in Mùnqapi, a village in northeastern Arizona. A graduate of the University of Arizona, he is a former wildlife technician for the Hopi Tribe.

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