April 15, 2021 – Planetary News Corp.
International mining consortium Devour, Inc., has just announced its discovery of a sizable deposit of rare-earth element lutetium, used in petroleum cracking. This metallic substance is the least common of all such elements, making the find an immensely valuable one. The lutetium is located about 50 meters below Vatican City in Rome. Devour has said that the utility of the element, coupled with its scarcity, makes an unequivocal case for its recovery. Therefore, Devour has made application to the city of Rome and the government of Italy to proceed with extracting the lutetium. The company is prepared to offer the Catholic Church up to $10 million US to relocate all critical elements of Vatican City, including St. Peter’s Cathedral. Pope Francis will be allowed one year to gather all critical documents and relics, along with any Church possessions he deems important, and vacate the area. Church personnel will be given relocation reimbursements. The Italian government is reported to be considering Devour’s offer.
Is it even within the realm of possibility that we’d ever actually see a headline like this? Not a ghost of a chance. Why? Well, well….the Vatican is sacred. It’s the seat of a church with members worldwide. It’s part of Western civilization’s history and culture; it’s been there for hundreds of years. It’s an independent entity — there’s a treaty from 1929 that says so. They just couldn’t DO that!
And of course, an invasion like that would indeed be considered a desecration. There’s no end that would justify such a radical, irrevocable, destructive means.
Consider, then, Oak Flat in Arizona. The area has been sacred to Apache tribes for uncounted generations. Rituals and ceremonies have been conducted there since before recorded tribal histories. The land belongs to the Apache forever, according to a treaty signed by the United States in 1852. However, as with most, if not all, such agreements the U.S. government approved, that treaty wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. Members of the San Carlos tribe, who lived in and around Oak Flat, were inevitably forced to relocate to reservations, and miners came to plunder the mineral wealth. Now there are almost 112,000 members of various Apache tribes (the U.S. government recognizes eight) scattered primarily throughout Oklahoma, Arizona, and New Mexico, most of them living on reservations. And again, as always, they’re fighting to retain their ancestral territory.
Oak Flat is a lodestone for the San Carlos people, and their entire culture is connected to it. Other tribes also venerate the area. Enter Revolution Copper, an organization as rapacious as its parent company, Rio Tinto, headquartered in Australia. Rio Tinto’s recent past includes utter destruction of Juukan Gorge, an aboriginal cave system in Western Australia. The caves were considered one of the country’s premier archaeological sites, with a history of habitation since the last Ice Age. Rio Tinto has been ordered to rebuild the caves and pay reparations, but gone is gone: there’s no replacing the caves as they’d stood for millennia.
In the case of Juukan Gorge, the prize was iron ore. In Oak Flat, it’s one of the largest extant undeveloped copper deposits, which surely elicits greedy slavering on the part of Revolution’s executive management. Without doubt, they’re already seeing the dollar signs. It matters not a whit to them that people outside their boardroom have a different view of the rugged panorama that comprises the San Carlos Apache’s sacred ground. This place is home to coming-of-age ceremonies for young men and women; it features herbs and roots imbued with a spirit that can be found nowhere else. The significance is tied to the land itself — not just any plot of soil will work, as culture and deities are centered in that specific spot.
In sheer human terms, how can the entire world not understand “home” and “beloved space” and “sacred trees and cliffs?” As the tribe’s legal brief states, the proposed mine would, “destroy the site forever — swallowing it in a nearly two-mile wide, 1,100-foot deep crater.” Such devastation is exactly what happened in Australia, yet the company professes it will, “work to ‘understand the concerns’” of the tribe. How is erasing a native people’s long-held holy place any different from bulldozing the Vatican? If Revolution Copper truly understood and appreciated the Apache’s concerns, they’d abandon all efforts to seize and loot Oak Flat. But then, the company executives’ homes and places of worship are not at risk.
We’ve seen what happened with Bears Ears National Monument: the former guy took an area preserved by President Obama and reduced its footprint by 85%, so that mining and energy concerns could swallow up the resources. The fight to reverse the former guy’s giveaway is ongoing, with new Interior Secretary Deb Haaland weighing in to help the Ute, Navajo, Hopi, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni tribes retain possession of, again, sacred territory. The San Carlos tribe and the rest of the Apache hope that Haaland will intervene on their behalf, as well. This week, a House subcommittee was slated to take up the question of Revolution Copper’s bid to take over Oak Flat. The future of the land hangs in the balance.
As with Bears Ears, Standing Rock, and countless other grabs of First Nations’ lands, this threat to Oak Flat absolutely should not exist. It shouldn’t even be a question. This attempted theft of sacred ground is yet another example of governmental and corporate greed’s triumphing over all other concerns. If we as a modern society don’t veer to another tack, we will indeed pay the price, and it will make even indigenous peoples’ centuries of irreparable losses seem trivial by comparison. And we’ll only be getting what we deserve.