Once Upon a Mine


It was there, munching on some authentic chili rellenos at Superior, Arizona’s Los Hermanos restaurant at the end of a long day climbing, where a Tonto Apache Chief told me a story. A story I must share. A story that needs a champion and a happy ending…

On a 3700 mile midwest-to-southwest Spring Break road trip, I found myself climbing Queen Creek Canyon’s spectacular rocks in Superior, a small Arizona mining town 70 miles east of Phoenix. While camping at the adjacent Oak Flat Campground on public land, we hit Queen Creek Canyon’s The Pond, a popular destination with rock climbers. In fact, for 15 years, Oak Flat was the site of the largest climbing competition in the world. Climbers, along with thousands of hikers, mountain bikers, bird watchers and campers visit the Oak Flat campground recreation area annually. We camped alongside many this March. 




Oak Flat CampgroundOnce upon a time, we humans respected our planet’s resources. We tried to ensure mining was done responsibly to protect communities and the environment. This is not that time.

This story’s setting is Arizona’s Oak Flat Campground, where in 1955 President Eisenhower placed an executive order to declare the campground off limits to mining. Some politicians have since wanted otherwise, so they devised a method.

Often in stories there’s conflict that arrives at a climax where greedy motivations create the tension that is ultimately resolved by some hero(es) to arrive at the story’s glorious end. This story is at its climax. A controversial land exchange passed as part of a defense-spending bill late last year that will allow Resolution Copper Company to begin mining a low-grade body of copper ore located 7,000 feet below Oak Flat. The bill was tucked inside this unrelated bill after 10 years of not passing on its own.

The mining process Resolution will use, called block caving, will leave a 2 mile crater where anything on the surface, like sacred sites, campgrounds, and rock climbing cliffs, are likely to collapse and be destroyed forever. Other Arizona towns who have employed this type of destructive mining have had to shift their economies to other means to survive. So the justification of bringing a positive impact to the local economy seems just another bewildering chapter in this story’s dramatic tale.

If mined as currently proposed, the project would constitute the single largest loss of rock climbing on public lands in US history.

This story needs heroes to bring it to the glorious outcome. You can be that hero. Here’s how:

On March 18, 2016, the Tonto National Forest issued a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Resolution Copper Project and Land Exchange. Two separate but related components will be analyzed in the EIS, as well as any necessary amendments to the Tonto National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan. Full details of the proposed actions to be analyzed in the EIS can be found on the Project Information page.


You can be the hero. There are just two steps to your shining entry into this story.

The United States Forest Service invites you to participate in the Resolution Copper Project and Land Exchange Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. The deadline is May 17, 2016.

  1. Complete this PUBLIC COMMENT FORM.
  2. Sign this Petition to Repeal the Oak Flat Land Exchange.

Thank you for choosing to contribute to this story’s outcome. Let’s all read and go see the sequel, “Oak Flat Saved from Destruction”.


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