Jan 4 (Reuters) – The outgoing administration of U.S. President Donald Trump plans to approve a controversial land swap needed by Rio Tinto Ltd. (RIO.AX)(RIO.L) and partners to build a copper mining project in Arizona that Native American tribes say will destroy sites of cultural and religious value.
The move further intensifies the growing global standoff between indigenous groups, who are increasingly voicing the need to preserve historic lands, and mining companies eager to produce more copper for electric vehicles and other green technologies.
The US Forest Service will release a final environmental impact statement for the mine on January 15, a necessary step to complete the land swap, said Tom Torres, acting supervisor of the Tonto National Forest, where the mine would be built.
The post will come five days before Trump is to be succeeded by President-elect Joe Biden, who has not spoken publicly about the project but promised Arizona tribal leaders in October that they would “have a seat at the table” in his administration.
Rio Tinto said it is “committed to continued engagement with the Forest Service” once Biden is president, as well as “with the tribes and the community to continue to shape the project and build programs that protect Native American cultural heritage.” and help diversify the local culture. economy.”
Officials with the San Carlos Apache Tribe and the Biden campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.
The publication of the final report is a technical requirement for the land swap, which dates back to 2014, when former President Barack Obama approved the process. The government must, within 60 days, exchange the land on the copper reserve for acres that Rio owns nearby.
River and partner BHP Group Ltd (BHP.AX) it has yet to obtain construction permits for the mine, which the incoming Biden administration is likely to oppose or move slowly, analysts say.
The tribe and its allies have vowed not to allow the mine to open and have already begun lobbying Biden to block building permits. Some tribal members have said they will physically entrench themselves on the ground to prevent the mine from being built.
Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Edited by Dan Grebler
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