Mining for precious metals can scar the earth, contaminate vital habitats for wildlife, and harm Indigenous communities. Ha ‘Kamwe, a hot spring sacred to the Hualapai Tribe in Northern Arizona, is under attack by a lithium mining project by Hawkstone Mining that threatens their land, water, and heritage sites. The Hualapai and other tribes have used the spring for centuries for healing, prayer, and rites of passage, such as childbirth and coming-of-age ceremonies for young women. Tell the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to protect this sacred spring from extractive lithium drilling by conducting a proper Environmental Impact Statement!
Hawkstone Mining, an Australian company, has conducted exploratory drilling on federal BLM land just yards away from Ha ‘Kamwe. Hawkstone has been drilling on three sides of Hualapai land in Arizona’s Big Sandy River Valley and plans to create an open-pit lithium mine, putting the Ha ‘Kamwe at risk.
The BLM failed to follow federal law by allowing exploratory drilling without a required analysis of impacts on the Hualapai cultural, historic and spiritual resources. The BLM issued a draft environmental assessment but failed to properly analyze the impacts of drilling on cultural resources and threatened species in addition to failing to consult with the Tribe prior to issuing the assessment.
The Hualapai are not the only tribe threatened by mining interests. The majority of untapped reserves of critical minerals considered key for the clean energy transition — nickel, copper, cobalt and lithium — are all within 35 miles of Native American reservations.
While the demand for lithium and other critical minerals is expected to grow given their role in the transition to clean energy, legal rights and cultural resources for Indigenous tribes like the Hualapai must be respected. We do not need dirty mining to get to our clean energy future. We have the opportunity to do what the fossil fuel industry never did – set out from the beginning to better protect the communities and environments impacted by energy development.
Indigenous groups around the country and Earthjustice support a fast transition to clean energy and understand that critical minerals are needed, but they want legal rights and cultural resources to be protected and federal agencies to follow the law. Both Indigenous groups and Earthjustice believe that alternatives to mining must be explored, such as incentivizing and strengthening the circular economy to reuse and recycle existing minerals.
The Bureau of Land Management did a superficial environmental assessment for the drilling project. A thorough analysis of impacts on land, water, and cultural resources is needed for this project. Help protect this sacred spring by demanding the Bureau of Land Management conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement!