By Nina Crowder
Copper Area News
Billed as a forum to present the “other side” of the Resolution Copper Mine issue, last week’s open meeting was well attended by both opponents and proponents of the mine and proposed land exchange. The public informational meeting was sponsored by the Concerned Citizens and Retired Miners Coalition.
Roger Featherstone with the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition led the discussion of the Gosar Oak Flat Land Exchange Bill, which he said is a big loss for the public and a big win for foreign mining giants. Congressman Gosar is leading the charge for the newest version of the Oak Flat Land Exchange, HR 687. This is the 12th version of the land exchange since it was first introduced in 2005.
Featherstone asked, is this bill in the interest of the citizens of the United States?
It serves the purpose to make it easier for two foreign mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton to export valuable American natural resources overseas and allow profits at the taxpayer’s expense, he said. Featherstone further discussed why this is a bad idea: the revenue would not go to taxpayers, this would devastate the region’s water supply, destroy habitat, endangerment of plants and recreational effects.
“The new copper mine is not needed in Arizona at this time,” Featherstone said. “There are other mines in the area that aren’t running at full capacity and it makes a lot more sense to fully utilize the existing mines.”
Rio Tinto, he continued, seeks to justify the destruction of Oak Flat in the name of jobs and economic benefits that it says will flow to the State of Arizona and the local economy as a result of their mine. Rio Tinto, Featherstone further said, has based most of their glowing job and economic impacts figures on a report they hired Elliot D. Pollack & Company to prepare titled “Resolution Copper Company Economic and Fiscal Impact Report, Superior, Arizona.” Among some of the flaws, Featherstone said, the report assumes that there will be no environmental costs associated with the proposed mine and that the construction and operation of the proposed mine would not conflict with any other economic activities or values.
Rio Tinto’s report, Featherstone said, was recently exposed in a report examining the Pollack study prepared in September of 2013, by the independent consulting firm of Power Consulting, Inc. titled “Exaggerating the Net Economic Benefits of the Proposed Resolution Copper Mine, Superior, Arizona: A Critical Review of Resolution’s Economic Impact Analysis.” Rio Tinto’s study, Featherstone said, assumes that a mine would only produce benefits with no costs. The Pollack study assumes that a proposed mine would operate continuously at full production and ignores the historic bust and boom cycle of mines in Arizona.
“Rio Tinto assumes that a proposed mine would operate 24/7 for 50 years at 100% capacity, despite a century and a half of evidence to the contrary,” Featherstone said. “The history of Arizona mines shows clearly that copper production, employment, payroll, and tax payments fluctuate widely due to changing international copper prices and other factors.”
The Pollack report, Featherstone said, added the annual impacts over a 64 year period and reported that cumulative number as the impact rather than reporting the annual level of projected impacts. “This is like saying that a projected mining job would pay $3.8 million rather than saying a job would pay $75,000 annually and last 50 years,” Featherstone explained. “Therefore, many of Rio Tinto’s economic impacts are 64 times to large. The report assumes there would be no requirements for public services such as road repair, police and fire protections, education, or social services as a result of the mine project. Rio Tinto’s report claims a large generation of taxes, but fails to consider or calculate for any of the demands for services that taxes would pay for. Metal mining jobs have not reduced unemployment or assisted local economic stability. For over 100 years, copper mining has taken place in Superior and surrounding towns. There has not been a history of sustained prosperity in mining.”
Orlando Perea has 41 years of mining experience in San Manuel and Superior as a supervisor.
“In San Manuel the block cave mining was used and very different,” Perea said. “If you haven’t worked a block cave mine you just don’t realize the destruction that is taking place.” There is a lot of water used for the block cave mining. In San Manuel, Perea explained, there was approximately 55,000 tons a day and there is a lot of water used. It is similar to a manmade earthquake underground, he said.
“Do we want the tailing here in Superior? What are we going to leave for our grandkids, what legacy?” Perea asked.
Curt Shannon with Access Fund Climbing out of Boulder, Colorado was in attendance. His group represents rock climbers and heavy recreational areas. They are advocates for climbers, camping and recreation. The Access Fund, he explained, is the national advocacy organization that keeps U.S. climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. Founded in 1991, the Access Fund supports and represents over 2.3 million climbers nationwide in all forms of climbing: rock, ice, and mountaineering.
“Approximately $10.6 billion is spent in Arizona for all of recreation. There are approximately 103,700 jobs in outdoor recreation in Arizona,” Shannon said. “It is important for us to save our recreational areas.”
Roy Chavez, a member of the Concerned Citizens and Retired Miners Coalition, spoke out against the mining project.
“It is important for a town like Superior to be diversified,” Chavez said. “In mining when the jobs are here they are good, but when they are gone, they are gone. When you have a massive project like this at your door step it sounds like it is the best thing since sliced bread, but realistically this has been moving for eight years now in legislation. We want facts both pro and con. A pre-NEPA would be idealistic, a look before you leap.”
If you would like to read the full Pollack report, it can be found at: http://bit.ly/1fWK385. If you would like to sign the Oak Flat Petition it is available at or if you have specific questions for the Arizona Mine Reform they can be reached at 520-777-9500.