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Grassroots Action Center

Tell Congress: Save Oak Flat and Support a Just Energy Transition
Oak Flat, or Chíchʼil Bił Dagoteel in Navajo (Chéchʼil Bił Dahoteel), is a sacred site for the San Carlos Apache. Unfortunately, this public land is facing imminent danger due to the detrimental impact of the mining industry. Sadly, Oak Flat is just one example of numerous public lands and vulnerable populations directly affected by the harsh extraction of resources.

As people of faith, it is our responsibility to protect our shared Earth and its inhabitants. We must act by urging political leaders to support the Clean Energy and Mining Act of 2023 (S.1742) and the Save Oak Flat from Foreign Mining Act (H.R.1351). These bills must be considered together, and it is integral that any legislation impacting public lands rely upon active, meaningful, and timely consultations with Indian Tribes prior to undertaking any mineral activities that may have a direct, indirect, or cumulative impact on Tribes and the land. The current mining regulations, governed by the outdated 1872 Mining Law, persist despite historical injustices experienced with the fossil fuel industry. 

The environmental damage from mining, including toxic leaks and spills into public lands, is a significant hazard to public health. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that 40% of the headwaters of western U.S. watersheds have been polluted by mining. As stewards of God's creation, it is our responsibility to prevent this issue from worsening. Congress must take decisive and direct action by passing the Clean Energy and Minerals Act of 2023.

Under the 1872 law, mining industries are exempt from paying royalties, allowing those who stake claims to valuable minerals on public lands to reap the rewards without giving taxpayers their fair share. This has resulted in over $300 billion accumulated since 1872. In contrast, other extractive industries, such as coal, oil, and natural gas companies, are required to pay an 8-12% royalty for resources extracted from federal public lands.

This disparity encourages public land managers to prioritize mining over other land uses, negatively impacting the Earth and vulnerable populations nearby. U.S. mining policy should provide diverse land use choice that promote protecting people, cultural jobs, and the environment by balancing industrial-scale mining with conservation, recreation, tourism, municipal water supplies, renewable energy development and the sovereignty of Indigenous Nations.

To avoid repeating the mistakes of the fossil fuel era, we must update the mining law and meet the demand for a just energy transition in the most sustainable way possible—through recycling, reusing, and extending the life of materials and products we already have. Effective recycling of end-of-life batteries could significantly reduce global demand for newly mined copper, lithium, cobalt, and nickel by 2040.

Since 1990, Presbyterians have committed to caring for the climate and ensuring our consumption of natural resources does not harm vulnerable communities or further perpetuate the Doctrine of Discovery. The Matthew 25 Movement of the Presbyterian Mission Agency recognizes climate change as an intersectional priority, aligning with efforts to eradicate systemic poverty, dismantle racism, and build vital congregations.

As Presbyterians and people of faith, we must actively work to protect our planet as a means of protecting its people. The clean energy transition makes updating our mining laws more urgent than ever. This legislation will not only protect communities and the environment but also ensure that our supply chain is as sustainable as possible. Let your Senator and Representative know that you support and urge them to sponsor the Clean Energy and Mining Act of 2023  and the Save Oak Flat From Foreign Mining Act today.

 

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