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Grijalva Introduces Bill To Protect Oak Flat From Mining Project

Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva has introduced a bill to protect the Oak Flat area of Tonto National Forest. The bill is the latest attempt to stop a foreign company from developing one of the biggest copper mines in the U.S.

In the waning days of the Trump administration, the Forest Service released an Environmental Impact Statement that would have allowed the project to move forward.

But the agency faced widespread criticism and a flurry of legal action, and recently withdrew the EIS.

Although the Forest Service can provide oversight, mining laws make it difficult for the agency to stop a project in its tracks. Grijalva has introduced bills in the past to protect Oak Flat, but they faced tough sledding when Republicans held a Senate majority.

Grijalva is optimistic that this time the bill may pass.

“You know we’re going to have to rely a great deal on Sen. Sinema and Sen. Kelly to help us with their colleagues in the Senate, in terms of the Oak Flat bill,” he said.

His bill would give permanent protection to Oak Flat, which the San Carlos Apaches say is sacred. The mine would eventually create a hole nearly two miles across and more than 800 feet deep.

Ron Dungan has lived in Arizona for more than 35 years. He has worked as a reporter, construction worker, copy editor, designer and freelance writer. He's a graduate of the University of Iowa, where he was a member of the undergraduate Writers’ Workshop, and has a master’s in history from Arizona State University.Dungan was an outdoors reporter and member of the storyteller team at the Arizona Republic, where he won several awards, and was a contributor on a border project that won the 2018 Pulitzer for explanatory reporting.When not working, Dungan enjoys books, gardening, hanging out with his German shorthaired pointer, backpacking and fly-fishing. He's a fan of the Arizona Cardinals and Iowa Hawkeyes.