Last Tuesday I had the opportunity to join U.S. Representatives Matt Salmon and Kyrsten Sinema in touring the Resolution Copper mine. From 6,940 feet underground we had a firsthand look at a modern day, sophisticated mining operation. Company representatives also shared what is required to put a new mining facility into operation. For those familiar with the ongoing progress of the Superior mine, you know this is no small task.
In 2013 Resolution Copper filed a Mine Plan of Operations (MPO) with the U.S. Forest Service. It outlines plans for a proposed mining facility in the area of the former Magma Copper Mine near the town of Superior, 65 miles east of Phoenix. If approved, the mine will produce copper concentrate through a well-established underground mining method known as “block cave mining” used at more than 20 mining operations around the world, many of which have been in continuous operation for decades.
An economic impact study commissioned by Elliot D. Pollack and Company projects the proposed mine will have a total economic impact on the state of more than $61.4 billion – more than $1 billion per year – with nearly $20 billion in federal, state, county, and local tax revenues. Contained in those staggering figures is the fact that Resolution Copper will directly employ 1,400 new employees from the local workforce, with another 2,300 indirect jobs created.
A number of actions have to take place before the copper mine can go into service and these economic benefits can be realized, including a comprehensive environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by the U.S. Forest Service.. This requires that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be completed before a final Mine Plan of Operations is approved. Specifically NEPA requires::
- Identifying and applying environmental protection and mitigation measures such as water studies to ensure protection of ground and surface water;
- A final reclamation plan with financial assurance that Resolution Copper will cover closure costs;
- Compliance with all regulations, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and laws relating to Native American cultural and sacred sites. This includes the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the American Antiquities Act as well as formal government-to-government consultation.
One key hurdle that has been cleared in recent months is the passage and signature of a long-discussed land exchange bill in Congress. The legislation exchanges 2,400 acres of Forest Service land for 5,300 acres that would be designated for conservation, but only after completion of the comprehensive environmental review under NEPA. This paves the way for the Resolution Copper mine while preserving thousands of acres of environmentally significant land throughout the state.
Despite its long journey, the proposed mine is making significant progress. Once in place it will mean a tremendous economic impact for our state and the restoration of a proud mining tradition to a local community. The Arizona Chamber wholly supports this project and I was especially honored to tour the mine this week, along with members of the Arizona delegation.