/ Modified mar 16, 2016 5:26 a.m.

Praise and Pushback for Oak Flat Historic Designation

Native American sacred site sits atop proposed Resolution Copper Mine.



The Oak Flat Campground sits on top of one of the largest copper deposits in the world.

It’s also what members of the nearby San Carlos Apache Tribe say is sacred land, which in part prompted the National Park Service to list Oak Flat on the National Register of Historic Places this month.

That listing led mining opponents to call it merited, while mine proponents were critical.

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., released a statement calling the historic listing "bogus".

“Oak Flat has never been a sacred site," his statement said. "Obama’s minions are hell-bent on sabotaging an important mining effort."

Oak Flat is on Forest Service land that is scheduled to be handed over to Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of Anglo-Australian mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

Roger Featherstone, director of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, which opposes the mine, said Oak Flat would not have been designated a historic site if it weren’t merited.

"And I’m not sure why Congressman Gosar is so adamant in his opposition to someone else’s cultural and religious heritage," he said.

Gosar’s statement said the historic designation will not necessarily prevent the mining project from going forward, but it will cause delays.

Featherstone said now the review process will require a much more rigorous look at the cultural and historical ramifications of the proposed mine.

Resolution officials said the company has spent $1 billion preparing a mining operation that goes 7,000 feet below the surface and will spend another $1 billion before the first loads of ore are pulled out.

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