The White Vulcan pumice mine, which supplies stones to
denim-finishing companies, sits atop 90 acres of National Forest
land in Arizona's San Francisco Peaks--land considered sacred to 13
Native American tribes. Now the mine's owner, Flagstaff-based
Tufflite, Inc., wants to expand. The tribes, teamed with local
environmentalists, want to shut the mine down. For years the
law--specifically the 1872 General Mining Law--has been on
Tufflite's side, reports Brad Miller in Earth Island
Journal. But soon that may change.
'Thanks to the 1872 Mining Law,' which was signed by Ulysses S. Grant to encourage prospectors to head West and 'dispose of public lands,' Miller writes, 'Tufflite is not required to pay royalties on' most of the pumice it mines 'and is allowed to purchase and mine public lands for only $2.50-$5 per acre.'
The tribes argue that it is ludicrous to allow 'further destruction of the countryside in this sacred area so the fashion-conscious can wear pants which make them appear to have spent time outside,' says Miller.
The U.S. government may have a history of siding with the mining industry in such disputes, but this time the tables may have turned in favor of Tufflite's opponents. 'The [US Forest Service] has recognized the San Francisco Peaks as a Traditional Cultural Property and plans to nominate them for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places,' Miller points out, adding that 'The USFS also has recommended that the Interior Department approve a 'mineral withdrawal' that would protect more than 74,000 acres of land encompassing the peaks from any new mining claims for 20 years.' And on a recent visit to the site Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt told Tufflite, 'It's time to quit. Time to go home.'