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Apache Stronghold stakeholders ask 9th Circuit to revisit Oak Flat case

Coverage of tribal natural resources is supported in part by Catena Foundation

An Arizona tribe has asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reopen the Apache Stronghold case. The court upheld a ruling last month that the site of the planned Resolution Copper mine is not subject to laws protecting religious freedom.>

At the heart of the case lies the sacred site of Oak Flat in the Tonto National Forest that the court authorized the transfer of to a foreign mining company last month.

The Tohono O’odham Nation and Native American rights groups asked the court to rehear the case. Last March, a panel voted 6-5 to uphold a decision in favor of the mine. The tribe argues the ruling propagates a legacy of injustice and control of tribes’ sacred places.

And it argues that the 9th Circuit holds a disproportionate authority over tribes because more tribes are subject to the court’s decisions than any other appeals court in the country. 

The sacred site is also on top of the world’s third largest deposit of copper ore. 


Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco is an award-winning investigative reporter based in Flagstaff.