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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 was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2024.