Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments about whether the federal government has the right to destroy an Indian worship site so that a foreign group can mine copper — even as the Biden administration has shut down other drilling projects across the country.
The worship site is Oak Flat, a 2,200-acre tract of land in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest where members of the Apache Indian tribe have gone to worship and conduct religious ceremonies for centuries. While the federal government has protected the sacred site since the Eisenhower administration, in 2014, the government transferred the land to a foreign-owned mining company Resolution Copper, which plans to obliterate the site by creating a 1,000-foot crater, due to a large copper deposit 7,000 feet below Oak Flat’s surface. Such a crater will destroy Oak Flat forever, rendering the Apache’s religious practices obsolete, insist the locals who are fighting the development.
In response to the land transfer, a group of Apache and other supporters of the tribe sued the government in federal court, arguing that the destruction of their worship site violates the Religious Freedom…
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