MON: Oil and gas leases on hold around Chaco, film crew union narrowly approves new contract + more

US: Oil, gas leases on hold around New Mexico’s Chaco park – Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New oil and gas leasing within 10 miles of Chaco Culture National Historical Park will be prohibited for the next two years as officials consider a proposal to withdraw federal land in the area from development for a 20-year period, the U.S. Department of Interior said Monday.

The announcement came as environmentalists, some Native American tribes and Democratic politicians have pressured Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to take administrative action to protect a broad swath of land in northwestern New Mexico that holds significance for many Indigenous people in the Southwest.

The first Native American to hold a cabinet position, Haaland is from Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico. She has called the area sacred and reiterated its importance on Monday, saying it has deep meaning for those whose ancestors once called the high desert home.

“Now is the time to consider more enduring protections for the living landscape that is Chaco, so that we can pass on this rich cultural legacy to future generations,” Haaland said in a statement. “I value and appreciate the many tribal leaders, elected officials and stakeholders who have persisted in their work to conserve this special area.”

A World Heritage site, Chaco is thought to be the center of what was once a hub of Indigenous civilization. Within the park, walls of stacked stone jut up from the bottom of the canyon, some perfectly aligned with the seasonal movements of the sun and moon. Circular subterranean rooms called kivas are cut into the desert floor. Outside the park, archaeologists have said, there are more discoveries waiting to be made.

The fight over drilling beyond the boundaries of Chaco has been ongoing for decades and has spanned multiple presidential administrations. The Trump and Obama administrations also put on hold leases adjacent to the park through agency actions, but activists want more permanent action that cannot be upended by future presidential administrations.

Haaland was among the sponsors of legislation calling for greater protections around Chaco during her tenure in the U.S. House, but calls have mounted for her to use administrative powers to establish a buffer zone around Chaco pending the outcome of federal legislation.

Over the next two years, the Bureau of Land Management will be tasked with conducting an environmental analysis and gathering public comment on the proposed administrative withdrawal. The agency vows to consult with tribes.

Federal officials said the ban of new petroleum leasing in the area will not affect existing leases or rights and would not apply to minerals owned by private, state or tribal entities.

The impact of a 20-year withdrawal, if approved, is uncertain because the area is a jurisdictional checkerboard of state, private, federal and tribal holdings.

Much of land surrounding Chaco belongs to the largest Indigenous tribe in the U.S. — the Navajo Nation — and to individual Navajo allottees.

Navajo leaders have raised concerns about the size of the buffer around Chaco. They have repeatedly called for congressional field hearings to be held before any decisions are made.

While they support preserving parts of the area, they have said Navajo allottees stand to lose an important source of income if the 10-mile (16-kilometer) buffer is created around the park as proposed. They’re calling for a smaller area of federal land to be made off limits to development as a compromise to protect Navajo financial interests.

“We support the protection of the Chaco Canyon region due to its historical and cultural significance for our Navajo people, but we also have to consider the concerns and rights of our Navajo citizens who have allotment lands,” Navajo President Jonathan Nez said Monday. “There are many factors that have to be weighed very carefully.”

Nez said the tribe is ready to work with the Biden administration to address the issues as more details become available.

The All Pueblo Council of Governors, which represents 20 pueblos in New Mexico, welcomed the news and said it was the result of “continuous prayers.” Still, the group acknowledged Haaland’s action was only an interim measure and they vowed to continue seeking permanent protections.

They also asked that land managers ensure any development not affected by the moratorium meet existing federal requirements, including cultural and environmental reviews.

As part of the work ahead, federal officials plan a broader assessment of the region to account for sacred sites and cultural resources.

 Film crew union narrowly approves contract with producers – Andrew Dalton, Associated Press

Film industry crew members have narrowly voted to approve a pair of contracts with Hollywood producers after a standoff that came within days of a strike that would have frozen productions across the U.S., union leaders said Monday.

The agreements passed 56% to 44% among delegates from the 36 local unions of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees in the voting system that resembles the U.S. Electoral College.

But in the popular vote, 50.3% said yes and 49.7% no of the approximately 45,000 members who cast a ballot in voting held from Friday through Sunday.

The razor-thin total stood in contrast to the last vote from union members, in which 98% approved giving union leaders the authority to call a strike.

A victorious “no” vote would have reopened negotiations and brought back the possibility of a strike.

There was joy and relief among many members when the three-year deal was reached with producers on Oct. 16, two days before a strike deadline.

But many others were disillusioned with the details, saying the contracts didn’t go far enough to address issues like long workdays that may lack breaks or lunch, and the debilitating fatigue it causes.

Veteran stagehand Jason Fitzgerald said in an email after the results were announced that he was “Disappointed. Disgusted. Sold out by leadership. Not surprised.”

The vote took place in the shadow of the shooting that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza on the New Mexico set of the film “Rust.”

Alec Baldwin, the film’s star-producer who fired the gun, called it a “one-in-a-trillion event,” but many felt like the incident was emblematic of the industry’s corner-cutting and critical flaws.

According to the union, core safety and economic issues are addressed in the proposed agreements covering workers on film and TV productions.

“Our goal was to achieve fair contracts that work for IATSE members in television and film — that address quality-of-life issues and conditions on the job like rest and meal breaks,” IATSE International President Matthew Loeb said in a statement. “We met our objectives for this round of bargaining and built a strong foundation for future agreements.”

The agreements include across-the board wage increases and increased compensation paid by streaming services, who had long been allowed lower pay rates, union leaders said.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents Hollywood studios and other production entities, said in a statement that “throughout the negotiations, IATSE leadership advocated changes to improved quality of life” and the “agreements meaningfully reflect the industry’s endorsement of those priorities and keep everyone working.”

IATSE represents about 150,000 behind-the-scenes workers, including stagehands, cinematographers, costumers and others employed in all forms of entertainment, from movies and TV to theater, concerts, trade shows and broadcasting.

The two contracts affect about 63,000 union members. One primarily covers film and TV production on the West Coast and applies to about two-thirds of those members; the other is for production hubs, including New Mexico and Georgia.

Biden boosts crime fighting efforts on Native American lands – Darlene Superville, Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

President Joe Biden on Monday ordered several Cabinet departments to work together to combat human trafficking and crime on Native American lands, where violent crime rates are more than double the national average.

Speaking at a White House summit on tribal nations, Biden signed an executive order tasking the Justice, Homeland Security and Interior departments with pursuing strategies to reduce crime. Biden also asked the departments to work to strengthen participation in Amber Alert programs and national training programs for federal agents, and appoint a liaison who can speak with family members and to advocates.

The administration also announced plans to pursue a 20-year ban on oil and gas drilling in Chaco Canyon, an ancient Native American heritage site in northwestern New Mexico.

“We have to continue to stand up for the dignity and sovereignty of tribal nations,” Biden said at the first tribal nations summit since 2016. The two-day summit was being held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected Indigenous peoples at disproportionate rates.

American Indians and Alaska Natives are more than twice as likely to be victims of a violent crime and Native American women are at least two times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted compared to other races, according to the Association on American Indian Affairs.

The administration also announced a long-sought action to protect Chaco Canyon, a national park and UNESCO World Heritage site northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the Bureau of Land Management will study the possible withdrawal for a period of 20 years from federal lands within a 10-mile radius of Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Such a move would bar new federal oil and gas leasing and development on those lands. Those lands will not be eligible for leasing while the study is underway, though past administrations had already opted to impose the buffer administratively.

Environmentalists and some tribes have complained that such a move is temporary and that permanent protections are needed. But it isn’t so simple; while some tribes have fought for protections, the Navajo Nation, which has more to lose by curbing oil and gas, has asked for a smaller radius around the site, an ancient center of Pueblo culture.

“Chaco Canyon is a sacred place that holds deep meaning for the Indigenous peoples whose ancestors lived, worked, and thrived in that high desert community,” said Haaland, the first Native American to lead the Interior Department, the powerful federal agency that has wielded influence over U.S. tribes for generations. Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo.

“Now is the time to consider more enduring protections for the living landscape that is Chaco, so that we can pass on this rich cultural legacy to future generations,” she said. The secretary represented New Mexico, where Chaco Canyon is located, in the U.S. House of Representatives before she was narrowly confirmed by the Senate to take over at Interior.

First lady Jill Biden, an English teacher, addressed the summit on the importance of preserving Native languages. Vice President Kamala Harris was set to speak Tuesday, the final day.

The tribal nations summit coincides with National Native American Heritage Month and is being hosted by the White House for the first time, with leaders from more than 570 tribes in the United States expected to participate. The summit was not held during the Trump administration; past conferences took place at the Interior Department.

Since taking office in January, Biden has taken several steps that the White House says demonstrate his commitment to tribal nations.

Among them are naming Haaland to lead the Interior Department. His coronavirus relief plan included $31 billion for tribal communities, and the administration has worked closely with tribal leaders to help make COVID-19 vaccination rates among Native Americans among the highest in the country, the White House said.

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty said she hoped the summit would help eliminate red tape when building critical infrastructure on tribal lands.

Biden also spoke about infrastructure, specifically to note that the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill he was signing into law Monday afternoon would direct $13 billion toward Native American communities to help provide such things as high-speed internet and clean drinking water.

Biden recently became the first president to issue a proclamation designating Oct. 11 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, giving a boost to longstanding efforts to refocus the federal holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus toward an appreciation of Native peoples.

Huge fire forces temporary closure of Walmart in Edgewood – Associated Press

A Walmart store in Edgewood is closed until further notice after a massive fire.

Santa Fe County Fire officials say the blaze at the store near I-40 was reported around 8 p.m. Sunday.

It took crews nearly three hours to gain control of it.

KRQE-TV reported flames could be seen shooting up from the building miles away.

Firefighters from multiple agencies including Bernalillo County Fire, Edgewood Fire and Albuquerque Fire and Rescue assisted.

No injuries were reported.

Santa Fe County Fire Chief Jackie Lindsey says investigators suspect the fire may have been arson.

Authorities have not determined the cause of the blaze.

New Mexico trapper acquitted in case that prompted new law -Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A northern New Mexico man has been acquitted of illegal trapping charges stemming from an incident that caused a dog’s strangulation death and prompted a new state law prohibiting trapping on public land.

A state District Court jury on Wednesday acquitted Marty Cordova, 44, of Chimayo of crimes regarding trapping fur-bearing animals, including trapping within 25 yards (23 meters) of a public road, failing to have identifying information on his traps and failing to check his traps daily.

“It’s a sense of relief, obviously,” Cordova told the Santa Fe New Mexican on Thursday. “It’s been about three years I’ve had this burden on my shoulders.”

Cordova was charged after an 8-year-old heeler mix named Roxy died at Santa Cruz Lake, a federal Bureau of Land Management recreation area, east of Espanola as the dog’s owner tried to free it from a snare trap.

The owner, Dave Clark of Espanola, declined to comment Thursday, the New Mexican reported.

The case prompted New Mexico legislators to approve the ban on use of traps, snares and wildlife poison on public lands. The Wildlife Conservation and Public Safety Act, also called Roxy’s Law, takes effect next April.

Cordova’s defense lawyer, Yvonne Quintana, said the acquittal was “the right outcome.”

“The case was overcharged, and the state and (Game and Fish Department) officers really did a disservice in regards to losing evidence.”

Game and Fish deleted thousands of photographs related to the case, Quintana said, adding other pieces of evidence — such as parts of the trap that snared Roxy — were lost.

Quintana also said the dog was not on a leash as required in the Santa Cruz recreation area.

“So while the traps may have been at fault for the loss of the dog, there was also that issue that if the dog had been controlled with a leash, the tragic loss of the domestic pet may never have occurred,” she said.

District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies disputed Quintana’s contention that the case was overcharged and said some of the evidence had been lost by the BLM during that agency’s investigation.

The prosecution “fought hard for accountability and what the jury did see and hear was heartbreaking testimony and evidence about how Roxy and her owner suffered,” Carmack-Altwies said.

Quintana said it was difficult to empanel a jury to hear the case because many potential jurors had strong opinions regarding trapping and animal rights.

“It was very inflammatory because the dog got killed,” she said,

Cordova, a utility manager at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said he uses traps because he has a small farm and that coyotes and other predators sometimes kill his chickens.

He said activists who pushed for the passage of Roxy’s Law used him to accomplish something that had been on their agenda for some time.

“They used me as a scapegoat to say, ‘Look at how bad sportsmen are, and look at the results of trapping,'” he said. 

Albuquerque police investigate city’s 100th homicide of year -Associated Press

Police are investigating Albuquerque’s 100th homicide case so far this year. 

Officers responded to a shots fired call around 4:30 a.m. Saturday. They found a car that looked like it crashed into someone’s yard and the person inside had at least one gunshot wound.

Police said that person died on the scene. No other information on the victim has been released yet.

Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said “hitting 100 is a grim reminder of the violence that’s occurring in the city.”

Medina added that Albuquerque “won’t get anywhere without the community working together” and a cultural change is needed to stop the violence.

Afghan refugees await new life while at New Mexico air baseBy Nicole Maxwell Alamogordo Daily News

In the town square recreation area in Aman Omid Village on Holloman Air Force Base, children and parents play in the cool mid-morning early November weather.

Near the outdoor recreation area is the Women’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation Center where girls and women dance the Attan, Afghanistan’s national dance. Nearby other women crochet and watch over children who color and are entertained by a Bollywood movie.

This is how Afghan refugees living on Holloman air Force Base pass the time while they await resettlement, the Alamogordo Daily News reported.

The refugees — Task Force Holloman call them guests — live in the tent city on the base that just months ago was a desert full of scrub brush. From that desert, base staff and the refugees themselves created Aman Omid Village — a name which the village’s governor Col. Curtis Velasquez said expresses what each person there is searching for: Peace and hope.

Velasquez said the village is “this generation’s Ellis Island,” the immigration inspection station in New York Harbor that was active between 1892 and 1954. The residents of Aman Omid Village do not leave until they are ready to fly out to their resettlement location.

Since Aug. 31, Holloman Air Force Base has been hosting a rolling average of about 4,500 Afghans. The number changes due to the nature of the resettlement process.

The team of Americans who collaborate with the Afghan refugees on the base is a multi-departmental group known as Task Force-Holloman, which is made up of service members, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. State Department and the Department of Defense.

“The collective efforts here of DHS, Department of State and (Department of Defense) are focused on one simple goal, and that is the successful resettlement of each and every Afghan guest that we have under our care,” Matt McKeehan of the Department of Homeland Security said. McKeehan is the federal coordinator for Operation Allies Welcome on Holloman Air Force Base.

McKeehan said resettlement begins with processing, reception, feeding, safety, security, cultural orientation, training and education of each person in the village.

Adults and children are taught English and take courses on cultural orientation. They learn about Daylight Savings Time and the history of Thanksgiving Day, concepts that are everyday to Americans. When hungry they can access two mess halls that serve halal food and drinks. Children are given toys donated by Toys for Tots — choosing between child-sized guitars and Minnie Mouse plush dolls.

___

‘A bad nightmare’: Bibi’s story

To protect the Afghan refugees staying on Holloman Air Force Base, they are not photographed or fully identified. This includes State Department worker Bibi.

Bibi spoke about her experiences during the fall of Kabul, her journey to Holloman Air Force Base and her plans once she and her family — those who were able to escape Afghanistan — are settled.

“It was a really bad experience,” Bibi said. “It was very rushed. We were crowded and the Taliban was surrounding us.”

The Taliban fired on Bibi and her family even as they asked why they were going into the airport, Bibi said.

After four days, Bibi and her family got into the airport but got separated from her father, uncle and cousin who are still in Afghanistan, Bibi said.

“The Taliban was hitting us. They were hitting my mom, my aunt and my brother with a gun and with a so-big stick in the right shoulder,” Bibi said making the approximate width of the stick with her hands.

Bibi said she and her family were assaulted and then were told no planes were available to take them to the U.S. and that they should leave the airport. A second violent encounter with the Taliban was followed by a three-hour wait for Bibi, her mother, aunt and brother who then managed to enter Kabul Airport, Bibi said.

“That was like a bad nightmare,” Bibi said. “This was the first time I had seen the Taliban.”

That was not Bibi’s mother’s first experience with the Taliban.

“About 20 years back, Taliban doing the same thing again now with the ladies, they are hitting the ladies now,” Bibi said. “(The Taliban are hitting) children, even the men who had hairstyles or they’re wearing pants not like Peraahan-Tonbaan, what Afghani wears. They’re hitting my brother because he was wearing a locket.”

When Bibi, her mother, aunt and brother were inside Kabul Airport, they were met by U.S. soldiers who were nice, Bibi said.

“They told us, ‘You’re gonna be okay, you are now our citizens. You are becoming an American. We are protecting you from the Taliban. You are good,'” Bibi said. “Now I’m just worrying about my dad (my uncle and one of my cousins) because we got separated.”

Bibi and her family were taken from Kabul to Qatar, where they stayed for 14 days before heading to Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Bibi said the experience in Qatar was nice.

The journey to Aman Omid Village had one more hardship when Bibi and her family were at Ramstein Air Base, she said. Her mother was attacked by an Afghan man at the Ramstein Air Base refugee camp, she claimed. Her mother was brushing her hair and had removed her headscarf prior to the attack.

The family stayed in Germany for two months before being transferred to Holloman Air Force Base.

“I’m very much happy here,” Bibi said. “Maybe we have a great future in here. I’m happy.”

Bibi hopes to get her pilot’s license one day.

___

‘A shocking incident’ The parents’ story

Rohafza Sajid and Yunus Sajid have two small children in Amad Omid Village.

“It was a shocking incident happened two months or more before in Afghanistan and no one was expecting to happen,” Yunus said. “But it happened and we were in unwanted situation.”

The U.S. government was helpful to the Sajid family, Yunus said.

However, the process of leaving Afghanistan was fraught with hardships particularly when going through Taliban checkpoints, Yunus said.

“It was horrible (when entering the Kabul Airport) and will be remembered always in our minds forever,” Yunus said. “Finally, we made it and we came to Germany to Ramstein (Air Base) and we spent more than a month there. So, we hopped over and entered the U.S. and finally to our last stop here at Holloman Air Base.”

Holloman Air Force Base is the last stop before resettlement for the Afghan refugees staying there.

Aman Omid Village, for all its amenities, is still a tent city.

“It’s a temporary place so (it has) basic life facilities,” Rohafza said. “We are hoping to have our final destination; our own house, our own rooms. We are happy for all the facilities they are providing. We don’t have so much expectations… It’s better than some other places we have heard from our friends.”

The situation is a new experience, even for the youth, Yunus said.

“(The U.S. government) are trying their best to provide what is necessary or needed but it is not desirable, of course,” Yunus said. “We hope that we will get out of this situation. This is not a permanent situation.”

Navajo Nation reports 65 more COVID-19 cases, 6 more deaths -Associated Press

The Navajo Nation has reported 65 more cases of COVID-19 and six additional deaths.

The latest figures released Saturday put the tribe’s overall number of cases at 38,479 since the pandemic began more than a year ago. The known death toll now is 1,513. 

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez urged residents of the vast reservation to be careful when traveling to neighboring cities and states where safety measures aren’t always as strict. 

The tribe has maintained a mask mandate through most of the pandemic.

Nez also has urged residents to take advantage of weekend vaccination drives including ones Pinehill and Shiprock in the New Mexico portion of the reservation and in Chinle, Arizona.

Other opportunities are available at health care facilities on the reservation that covers 27,000 square miles (70,000 square kilometers) and also stretches into southern Utah.

Man found dead in canal; had been detained by Navajo police -Associated Press

A body found Friday in a Shiprock canal is that of a man who disappeared after being detained by police while highly intoxicated over two weeks earlier, the Navajo Nation Police Department said.

Jevon Descheenie, 21, disappeared Oct. 25 after being seated on the rear step of a transport van outside the police station in Shiprock while the officer who had detained Descheenie went to a nearby police vehicle to get gloves to clean up that vehicle’s passenger compartment where Descheenie had vomited, a police statement said.

“When the officer returned to the rear of the transport van, Descheenie was gone,” the statement said.

Police notified Descheenie’s relatives and searched the area but could not find him, the statement said.

It said Descheenie was handcuffed behind his back when he disappeared but didn’t say whether he was still wearing them when found. It also wasn’t clear whether there was any indication how Descheenie died or how long his body was in the canal.

Tribal police spokeswoman Christina Tsosie said Saturday the incident was under investigation by the FBI so she could provide additional information.

FBI spokespeople did not immediately request to an emailed request for additional information.

New Mexico city moves ahead with desalination project -Hobbs News, Associated Press

One southeastern New Mexico city is taking another step forward as it looks for an “unlimited” source of water. 

The Eunice City Council recently voted to have a Hobbs-based engineering firm continue studying the benefits of building a desalination plant for the community. 

As depletion of fresh water from the Ogallala Aquifer continues, the council wants to know the feasibility of a proposed alternative — desalination of saline or brackish water. The Hobbs News-Sun reported that it could cost about $5.5 million to build a plant and the completion of the engineering study likely will provide a more accurate estimate.

City Manager Jordan Yutzy told the councilors that the engineering work by Pettigrew and Associates will cost about $464,000. State funds are paying for the work. 

The engineering firm began the study last summer to determine whether water from underground brackish aquifers can be economically desalinated for human consumption.

In July, Mayor Billy Hobbs voiced excitement about the potential.

“Eunice could become water independent,” Hobbs said. “I think it would be a great deal for Eunice and the surrounding area. I hope when the study comes back it will be feasible. They say it’s an endless water supply. There is an abundance down there.”

The Ogallala Aquifer underlies portions of eight states — South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. Using the fresh water from the Ogallala are agriculture, commercial industry and residences, with much less replenishing from rainfall or snowmelt.

Below the fresh water aquifer are saline and brackish water supplies that need to be treated, often at high cost, before human consumption.

“The aquifer is good underneath us,” Yutzy told the council. “(Pettigrew engineers) have a couple of sites they think will be great for well drilling. One of the main sites they kind of lean towards is near the golf course area.”

Yutzy said the next phase will be modeling the community’s water system to determine what infrastructure will be needed to bring the water into the city. That includes looking at what size pipes will be needed and potential connection points.

“Then, we’ll actually do a test well so we can pull a sample of the water,” he said. “They will send it off for analysis to make sure it hasn’t been contaminated or what’s in it so the system can be designed on the results.”

Most of the desalination plants that have come online in the last few decades operate near ocean shores, purifying seawater for human consumption. Seawater is significantly higher in salt concentration than most brackish water found below the surface. That means a plant such as the one envisioned in Eunice could cost less.

Superior shows generational divide over views on copper mine – By Aaron Dorman Casa Grande Dispatch

The kids care about the future of mining. But they also care about Native American rights. 

These kinds of contradictions and concerns lie in the background of Superior, a small town nestled in the mountains at the start of Pinal County’s Copper Corridor. Over 5,000 feet below the surface of Oak Flat, just to the east of Superior, lies a copper ore body that could be worth billions. 

But that’s not all that lies under the surface of Superior. While publicly, city leaders and community members show support for the Resolution Copper project, others claim there is a silent contingent of locals who fear the impacts of the block-cave mining operation will destroy the town forever.

“People that are for the mine are very vocal,” said 71-year-old Sylvia Delgado-Barrett, a former miner who retired near Superior but whose family still live there, including mother, siblings, children and grandchildren. “Those of us against the mine, there are many people on our side.”

Support for the mine appears to follow an inverse-generational divide, as younger families and local students believe the mine will foster a resurgence in the city’s downtown corridor, while older residents, many of whom are former miners, harbor a deep distrust of the large mining companies that come in and extract without showing much concern for the mess they leave behind.

That dynamic is exemplified by 78-year-old Orlando Perea, who worked in Superior’s Magma Mine for over two decades, and his grandniece, Miranda Perea, who graduated from Superior High School in 2016 and still lives in town.

The elder Perea is a vocal critic of the mine, while Miranda Perea praised the charitable work Resolution had done for groups like the local Little League or the high school.

“Everybody knows that our small town goes off the mine,” Miranda Perea said, noting her father is also a miner. “People talk about pollution the mine causes, but at the same time you have to understand if you are going to live in a mining town, there are pros and cons of being around it.”

Orlando Perea, who worked as a miner in San Manuel for several years where the block-cave method was used, said he’s most worried about the amount of water the mine will use. Outside estimates have projected that, despite the megadrought, the mine would require 2.5 billion gallons — 775,000 acre-feet — of water, enough to provide water annually for a city of 150,000 people.

Orlando Perea also worries about the fate of Oak Flat, which he first visited as a 10-year-old-boy.

“There’s a big oak tree that’s been standing there for 68 years, since I first visited,” Orlando said. “It’s a pretty area. That’ll all be gone. I feel for the destruction of the land. There’ll be a hole left there which will be there forever.”

The block-cave method Resolution Copper has proposed would leave Oak Flat, a campground and sacred site for the local San Carlos Apache tribe, a toxic crater. San Carlos Apache Chairman Terry Rambler has complained that the tribe was completely left out of the mine project negotiations and discussions.

“There aren’t many Native Americans here,” said Jasmine Ortega, a junior at Superior High School, “but people are opposed to the mine because of the sacred land. They are back and forth on this, and people don’t know what to do yet.”

So far, Resolution has promised to help fund two large projects within Superior: $2 million for a community recreation center that would be built within the old high school building, and $1.29 million for an Entrepreneur and Innovation Center that would provide an outlet for technical training and business assistance.

The company has also poured millions into reclaiming the old Magma mine just north of the city and has helped with smaller projects such as renovating the Superior Chamber of Commerce building. Such gestures seem as if the company is committed to being a good partner.

Henry Munoz, the 66-year-old head of the Concerned Citizens and Retired Miners Coalition of Superior, comes from five generations of miners and has lived in Superior all his life. 

He keeps a gigantic plaster model of the Resolution Copper project in his garage and has poured through the entire 3,000-page Environmental Impact Statement released, and later rescinded, by the U.S. Forest Service this past year.

It’s a document few have seen in its entirety, but Munoz obtained a hard copy — a PDF version is available publicly online — and has starred the portions that paint a less than rosy picture of the mine.

The EIS also indicates that Superior is unlikely to receive as much of the economic windfall as the surrounding area. The town could receive anywhere from $50,000 to $500,000 in annual revenues depending on residential growth, although the Superior school district could receive upwards of $16 million. Pinal County would see between $10 million and $20 million in annual revenue.

Superior’s population is around 2,500, or about half of what it was during its heyday in the 1970s, when the Magma Mine was operating.

Resolution Copper has promised over 3,000 direct and indirect jobs would be created by the copper mine; Munoz thinks that overstates the extent to which those workers would relocate to the town.

Munoz is not only concerned about the mine’s water use but how the mine would impact Superior’s own water supply.

“The Resolution Copper Project could affect both water availability and quality in several ways,” one portion of the EIS reads. “These include the potential for contamination of groundwater and surface water, tailings storage facility failure, and increase potential for accidental spills.”

“The first 10 years of this mine, everything is going to be wine and roses,” Munoz said, “but after the contamination and pollution occurs, after our water is polluted? We will be a ghost town.”

Many of the older miners from Superior lived and worked through the boom-and-bust period of the Magma copper operation, which closed in 1982.

Delgado-Barrett, who was one of the first female miners to work in Superior, said many people were forced to leave when the Magma mine closed down.

Jeffrey Epstein faces trial by proxy: Ghislaine Maxwell By Tom Hays and Larry Neumeister Associated Press

After disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide behind bars, a judge invited his accusers to court to vent their anger at a man they called a coward for taking his own life to escape accountability for sexually abusing them.

The coming weeks will still see, in a way, Epstein prosecuted by proxy: his former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, will stand trial in Manhattan federal court. Some of his accusers, identified in court by pseudonyms or first names, will get a chance to play a key role as government witnesses.

Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to charges she groomed underage victims to have unwanted sex with Epstein. She has vehemently denied wrongdoing.

“I have not committed any crime,” the jailed Maxwell blurted out at a recent pretrial conference. She was made to wear shackles coming and going from the courtroom, accentuating the severity of the allegations — although the restraints were gone at a hearing last week.

The questioning of jurors by Judge Alison J. Nathan begins Tuesday as a pool of over 600 potential jurors is whittled down to 12 — and six alternates — just before opening statements start Nov. 29 in Maxwell’s highly anticipated trial.

Epstein, who died at 66, was arrested on multiple sex-trafficking charges in New York in 2019. His lawyers contended the charges violated a 2008 non-prosecution deal with federal prosecutors in Miami that secretly ended a federal sex abuse probe involving at least 40 teenage girls. After pleading guilty to state charges in Florida instead, he spent 13 months in jail and paid settlements to victims.

The New York case took a shocking turn when Epstein killed himself while awaiting trial two years ago.

After his death, prosecutors turned their sights on Maxwell. The wealthy, Oxford-educated British socialite was the daughter of British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, who died in 1991 after falling off his yacht — named the Lady Ghislaine — near the Canary Islands while facing allegations he’d illegally looted his businesses’ pension funds.

Behind the scenes of a lavish lifestyle, prosecutors say, Maxwell seized the role of satisfying Epstein’s proclivity for luring young victims into “sexualized massages.” They plan to show jurors a picture of Maxwell and Epstein swimming nude together to illustrate their close relationship.

The trial’s drama will revolve around testimony from four women who say they and others were victimized as teens from 1994 to 2004 at Epstein’s estate in Palm Beach, Florida, his posh Manhattan townhouse and at other residences in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and London.

Prosecutors say there’s evidence Maxwell knew that the victims, including a 14-year-old, were below the age of consent and arranged travel for some between Epstein’s homes. Defense lawyers are still trying to reduce or eliminate the testimony of one of the four because she was 17 at the time in a jurisdiction where that wasn’t legally underage.

And prosecutors this past weekend asked the judge to let them reveal to the jury statements Epstein made to an employee about Maxwell’s involvement with procuring underage girls.

The indictment said Maxwell “would try to normalize sexual abuse for a minor victim by, among other things, discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when a minor victim was undressed, and/or being present for sex acts involving the minor victim and Epstein.”

The Epstein and Maxwell cases have fueled a cottage industry of podcasts and documentaries, like Netflix’s “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich,” as well as conspiracy theories and conjecture.

Reports that investigators seized Maxwell’s address books have sparked speculation that the trial could explore Epstein’s connections to Prince Andrew, former President Bill Clinton and former O.J. Simpson lawyer Alan Dershowitz. But the judge has made clear there will be no name-dropping at trial, saying only certain pages of an address book — showing a section naming the alleged victims under the heading “massage” — will come into evidence.

And she blocked prosecutors’ attempt to introduce emails they said would show Maxwell tried select women for other men, saying she was using her access to women “as a form of social currency with other influential men with whom she sought to ingratiate herself.”

Epstein’s name, however, is expected to come up frequently, and Maxwell’s lawyers have complained that Maxwell has already suffered from the negative publicity surrounding him. A questionnaire used to screen potential jurors inquired whether they had ever posted anything or an opinion about Maxwell or Epstein on social media.

The defense has signaled it wants to portray Maxwell as a victim of sorts.

“Jeffrey Epstein was a brilliant man who was flawed by enduring personality traits familiar to psychiatrists,” her lawyers said in a recent court filing. “Like many people who achieve great power and wealth, Jeffery Epstein exploited the ‘Halo effect’ to surround himself with people who would serve his needs.”

Nathan has four times rejected Maxwell’s bail requests, noting the ease with which the holder of U.S., French and British citizenships could use wealth and global connections to flee.

The judge also questioned Maxwell’s integrity, saying that she told authorities after her July 2020 arrest that she possessed around $3.5 million in assets, when she later admitted controlling $22.5 million with her husband.

In a letter to Nathan last week, defense lawyer Bobbi Sternheim said her client “is eager for her day in court.”

Maxwell “looks forward to her trial and to walking out of the courthouse uncuffed and unshackled following her acquittal,” wrote the lawyer who has repeatedly complained about Maxwell’s jail conditions, contending Maxwell’s been punished for Epstein’s suicide by guards who shine a light into her cell every 15 minutes and treat her harshly.

At a hearing last year where Maxwell was denied bail, some Epstein accusers made clear they believe she was equally culpable.

One called Maxwell “a sexual predator who groomed and abused me and countless other children and young women.” In a statement read aloud by a prosecutor, another said, “Without Ghislaine, Jeffrey could not have done what he did.”

Source: Einnews

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