By Nina Crowder
Superior School Superintendent Patrick O’Donnell offered a warm welcome to the public and state officials in attendance at the recent public meeting. State representative joined members of the community to address concerns regarding the Resolution Copper Mine (RCM) land exchange.
“We appreciate the fact that an opportunity is being presented for our students to see the democratic process in action,” said O’Donnell.
Gila County Chairman of the Board Mike Pastor introduced Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick. Pastor said that he has known Kirkpatrick for six years. He has worked with her and she has done many good things for her district. “It’s been a real pleasure to see her and Rep. Gosar working together on a bipartisan effort for the Resolution Copper/Arizona Land Exchange,” said Pastor.
Kirkpatrick thanked Rep. Paul Gosar for helping put this event together and thanked the Superior School District for allowing this event to take place. “The purpose of getting together is to talk about the legislation that Gosar and I are sponsoring,” said Kirkpatrick. “What will be discussed is the economic impact and where the legislation stands. Then we will open it up for public questions and concerns.” Kirkpatrick said her vision for Arizona is a diversified stable economy. “This mine is part of that, it is one of the richest copper ore bodies at the Superior site and there is a global demand for copper,” she said. Kirkpatrick commented that when the great recession hits small towns, Congress needs to bring back economic development. She noted that there is a way to balance it with clean water, clean land and by protecting our sacred sites.
H.R. 687 Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013 authorizes and directs the Secretary of Agriculture (USDA). The act authorizes that if Resolution Copper Mining, LLC offers to convey specified parcels of non-federal land in Gila, Yavapai, Maricopa, Coconino, Pinal, and/or Santa Cruz Counties, that are acceptable to the secretary or the Secretary of the Interior, to convey certain federal land in Pinal County to Resolution Copper.
“There are primarily five reasons; it creates thousands of high paying jobs, reduces U.S. dependency on foreign sources on energy and minerals, preserves Apache Leap, protects endangered species, habitat, sensitive ecosystems, recreational sites, stored landmarks in rural Arizona and generates billions of dollars in revenue for state federal and local government,” said Kirkpatrick. The impact to the state is in the $60 billion dollar range and the tax revenue alone is close to $1 billion dollars.
An overview of the legislation, it authorizes, directs facilitates and expedites the land between Resolution Copper Mine, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. “There are three parties involved in this and that is the reason we have to do this by a legislative exchange,” said Kirkpatrick. “The exchange will bring into federal stewardship 5,344 acres of high priority conservation lands in exchange for 2,422 acres of the National Forest Land containing one of the largest undeveloped copper resources in the world.”
Both Kirkpatrick and Gosar have tried to get this passed and are now working in a bipartisan way. They are starting to see some progress. Kirkpatrick said, “I have been talking with some of the small businesses here and they have really suffered from the recession. They have had to lay off workers. People are unemployed, not by choice, but there just hasn’t been jobs. The jobs created would be a real spark plug for the community.” Looking at a total of 3,700 jobs once the mine is fully operational, the total impact for Arizona is estimated to be $61.4 billion dollars.
The status of the legislation will most likely pass out of the House and then be moved into the Senate and be referred to the Committee of Energy and Resources. The legislation will then wait for committee action. There is a broad range of support in Arizona, including Governor Jan Brewer, members of the House of Representatives, Senate members, governing members of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Copper Corridor economic development, and the board of supervisors. The cities of Mesa, Apache Junction, Casa Grande, Globe, Miami, Payson, Florence, Hayden, Winkelman, Queen Creek and Mammoth are also in support of this legislation. Senator Barbara McGuire and Supervisor Pete Rios were in attendance to give support as well.
Pinal County Supervisor Miller introduced Congressman Gosar, when he first came and ran for the office. He felt that he was a down to earth, honest individual. Supervisor Miller really enjoys talking with him. He said that Gosar is soft spoken but always to the point.
Gosar continued with the PowerPoint presentation saying, “You can see the ramifications of this $60 billion dollars over a 50 year mine period, is over a $1 billion a year. Plus you will see $20 billion in taxes, which is huge. Most of the revenues and royalties that come out of this mine will be for education and this is a time we want to invest in K-12 education.” In the exchange, Resolution Copper will obtain 2,400 acres of Oak Flats. They own 75 percent of the mine surrounding Oak Flats, this is where the large ore copper body is generated. This would be the largest copper mine in North America and the third largest copper mine in the world. The land that would be exchanged is East Clear Creek, Cave Creek, Tangle Creek and Turkey Creek. “We are trying to put some of these last prominent ecological preserves together so that we can better manage our resources,” said Gosar. “Nothing will happen to Apache Leap. Resolution Copper will convey 110 acres of Apache Leap to the U.S. Forest Service. Apache Leap is completely off limits, nothing below and nothing around.”
“There has been a declined repeated invitation to discuss the issues with the town council of Superior,” said Gosar. “I am all about facts, you are entitled to your opinion, but there is only one set of facts.”
Many members of the public had questions and comments that were addressed to Kirkpatrick and Gosar. The public asked if the mine will drain the water sources leaving the population high and dry. “Currently Resolution Copper mine already has half of the water that would be required for the whole lifetime of the mine,” said Gosar. The public also commented that people have yet to receive any assurance that there will not be future environmental effects. Gosar replied, “This is pre-NEPA. Resolution Copper is not void of any state and federal environmental laws. They are required to comply with the laws before they can do any processing with the mine.”
Other questions included, “Will this bill destroy any Native Arizona lands?” Gosar said, “This bill will not destroy any of those lands. The U.S. Forest Service did an intensive review and they could not find any Indian relics.” Those in attendance also expressed a concern regarding the project being led by robots which would lead to no U.S. jobs. Gosar said, “There are some robotics underground to make sure the employees are safe, but it would be one robotic to one miner, that is how it works. Arizona State University is even interested in this aspect, but the work isn’t going to China folks. These will be Arizona jobs. Cave mining will be used instead of open pit mining.” Gosar reminded people that copper is in everything. Arizona is known for the five “C’s” cattle, citrus, cotton, climate and copper.
A few public comments that were made at the event included: Too many people are out of jobs and we need jobs; I want to keep working and so do a lot of other people; I support the RCM project, this is a long term project and it will reduce the need for foreign copper, it will be an excellent economic job for the area and the state.
Kirkpatrick addressed a question referring to jobs for members of the Apache tribe. “There is already training going on with tribal members who are concerned about jobs through local colleges and the need for jobs is understandable,” she said. “This is an opportunity to help with the economic growth in the area including tribal members.”
Before the meeting began there were many members of the public who were against the land exchange. They were holding signs and voicing their opinions about not going through with the land exchange to protect the environment. They were also concerned about the health and religious impacts it may have on the town of Superior. Many of the picketers felt this land exchange and mining project would destroy sacred Apache land, deprive the area of natural resources, impact the water supply negatively, and destroy ancient petroglyphs and the famous Apache Leap land.
Many people believe this project is a win-win for the state of Arizona. They believe the project will stimulate economic growth with new high paying jobs. They also believe that the longevity of the project and the production of copper will fulfill the needs of Arizonians. Representatives Kirkpatrick and Gosar will be back in Washington in September to work on the next steps.
The Resolution Copper Mine appreciates public opinions and questions and hopes to continue to work with the public, the Town of Superior and surrounding communities. If the public has additional unanswered questions, please feel free to email Resolution Copper at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 520- 689-3409. The next public meeting will be Aug. 20, 2013 at 6 p.m. at the Superior High School with Representatives Paul Gosar and Ann Kirkpatrick.