In the United States there has been widespread condemnation as Trump administration officials set in motion the transfer of sacred Indigenous lands to a mining company backed by major mining conglomerates Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

The 2422-acre parcel of land in Arizona called Oak Flat is of major significance to the Western Apache people and contains hundreds of Indigenous archaeological sites dating back 1500 years.

Beneath the ground is a copper deposit estimated to be worth more than $1bn.

Now, with just days left before the transfer of power to the Biden administration, a final environmental assessment has been published, triggering a 60-day countdown within which the government must transfer the land title to mining company Resolution Copper.

Members of the San Carlos Apache tribe have filed a property claim in an attempt to regain control over the land.

In a statement released late last week, the group Apache Stronghold said:

“Apache Holy land was stolen from the Apaches by force and mass murder by the U.S and Arizona miners 160 years ago. It’s stolen property and we’re suing to get it back and to protect our religious holy grounds. The U.S has no legal right to try and give it away.

The case has been compared to the destruction of Juukan Gorge in Western Australia, where Rio Tinto destroyed 36,000-year old sacred caves against the wishes of the PKKP people.

Roger Featherstone is the Director of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition and has been heavily involved in the campaign with the San Carlos Apache tribe to save Oak Flat.

Mr Featherstone says Rio Tinto’s behaviour in Western Australia has given them little reason to trust the company’s intentions in the US.

The full interview with Mr Featherstone will be included in this week’s Week in Review program.