By Miriam Raftery
Photo, left: September 30 protest at Barona reservation in Lakeside
October 19, 2021 (Lakeside) – Members of the Barona band of Mission Indians and other tribal nations have joined a fight aiming to stop the proposed Sandy Valley lithium mine in Arizona and proposed lithium mining at the Salton Sea in California that could adversely impact Native Americans.
Local activist Bobby Wallace led a local contingency of tribal members who traveled in late September to Arizona, where the Hualapai people are battling to stop the federal Bureau of Land Management from issuing permits for lithium mining that could threaten tribal water supplies.
Participants included tribal leaders and/or tribal council members from the Hualapai Nation and the Peach Springs tribe, as well as tribal youths and members of the Yavapai Apache People, Mohawk/Oneida tribe, Pueblo, Navajo, Zuni, and San Diego County tribal members from the Kumeyaay and Luiseno, as well as representatives of other activist groups.
Lithium is prized for use in cell phones, computers, batteries and other technology devices -- but at a high environmental price for those impacted by hard-rock and open-pit mining used to extract it. Now tribal members are urging the federal government to prioritize metal and rare earth mineral recycling over issuance of new mining permits. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that metal mining accounts for 41 percent of toxic substances released and hard rock mines may have already contaminated 40% of watersheds in the West, the Arizona Republic reported on October 2.