Arkansas Economic Development Director Grant Tennille, the state archeologist and other officials will be meeting Wednesday with representatives of the Quapaw Tribe.
They’re hoping to reach an agreement about preserving Native American artifacts, discovered near where the proposed Big River Steel mill is to be built in Osceola.
“We knew about them before it was ever announced and we have hired some of the best experts in this region to work with us. They have been on-site for months and we have a plan that both respects the artifacts and the culture and complies with state and federal law,” Tennille told KUAR News.
The meeting will not be open to the public or press, despite at least one news organization asking that it be open under the state Freedom of Information Act.
“As a former journalist, I’m an enormous proponent of the FOI, but there’s a really good reason why the location of Indian artifacts are not available through the Freedom of Information Act and that is because people will go and steal them," Tennille said.
"The purpose of this meeting, the whole reason that the meeting is happening, is to discuss the location of Indian artifacts and therefore it has got to remain closed.”
Meanwhile another meeting Tuesday night will be open to the public at the Osceola High School. It will feature technical staff from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality discussing the draft permit for the massive project.
About 2,000 people will be employed to construct the $1.1 billion facility. It will eventually have more than 500 employees with an average salary of $70,000 per year.