A Leap of Faith

Written by Anna Rose Mohr-Almeida | 

It is impossible to imagine a copper mine if you have never seen one. I live in Arizona, “The Copper State,” and I know what copper mining looks like, so I will try and paint you a picture of it. Imagine a huge, dusty hole in the ground with lots of machines at the bottom. The tires on the mining machines are so big that you could drive a car through the center of each tire. The mines are so deep that when you peer into the pit, the massive trucks at the bottom look like toys. A few people make money when copper is mined, but what is left for everyone else are gigantic, ugly holes in the ground – literal mountains of toxic waste and more carbon in the atmosphere.

A few people make money when copper is mined, but what is left for everyone else are gigantic, ugly holes in the ground - literal mountains of toxic waste and more carbon in the atmosphere.

Oak Flat is in trouble because of what is underneath it – the world’s 5th largest copper deposit. The Queen of England is part owner of the mining company that wants to destroy Oak Flat, which is that much worse because Oak Flat is also an Apache sacred site. When Geronimo and his brothers were being chased around Arizona by the U.S. Military, they tried to hide at Oak Flat. It took more than a month, but eventually the military discovered the group and backed them up against the edge of the 700 foot cliff. The Apache chose to leap off the cliff rather than be captured, and where they jumped is known as “Apache Leap.” At the bottom of the cliff there is an obsidian deposit, and the small, round bits of obsidian found there are called “Apache Tears.” The legend says the obsidian formed from the bitter tears the women cried after their men leaped off the cliff.

It is easy to understand why Oak Flat is important to the Apache.

Another big problem with this mine is the plan to manage the toxic tailings. The plan is to keep the pile wet, forever, in a part of the world where there is already a water shortage. The worst case scenario is that a dust storm will blow into Phoenix from the dry tailings site and the toxic dust will end up in the homes of 6 million people.

When the Queen of England can steal something precious from Native people in 2015, We the People have been missing from government. Now everyone needs to take the leap of faith that our actions will make change happen. Sometimes this means holding the line against the big dogs like the Queen of England while jumping into something unexplored. If we continue to act as if nothing is different and don’t take our own leaps, the future will be uncertain for human beings. It’s obvious – our climate is changing fast and we are losing biodiversity – and standing by and doing nothing or pretending that everything is normal and okay is letting memory be stolen from the future.
When young people demand that companies clean up their messes, put carbon back into the ground, and make sure they can’t ruin everything that makes the world beautiful, our voices are heard. Just like Geronimo and his Apache brothers, we need to band together and believe that the unknown is much better than what we already know to be true: Greed is a spiritual illness and it will never stop until we make it stop.

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