By Nina Crowder
Where are the tailings going?
That was the question of the night at last week’s forum hosted by Resolution Copper Company.
Andrew Taplin, project director with Resolution Copper welcomed the public and many elected officials including Mayor Rankin of Florence, Lerry Alderman of Globe City Council, Dave Richards of Mesa, Superior Town Council members, Mayor Jayme Valenzuela, John Tameron, Mike Alonzo, “Kiki” Peralta and Steve Estatico. Pinal and Gila county boards were also represented.
“We have held many meetings and they have been very successful and we appreciate everyone taking their time to come to the meetings,” Taplin said. “We desire to have a positive and constructive relationship with the Town of Superior, the Superior Town Council and public so that we can work through this world class project.”
The purpose of last week’s meeting was to inform the public about the Resolution Copper Mine Tailings Project and answer questions the public may have. Resolution Copper Mine (RCM) will create 3,700 jobs. $5 billion or more will be spent to design and build the mine, and close to $1 billion has already been spent to date. The mine will be in operation for 40 to 50 years. The mine will create $220 million in annual wages. It will produce $61 billion in total economic benefits to the state of Arizona. The mine will generate $20 billion in total federal, state, county and local tax revenue. They plan to produce one billion pounds or more of copper each year.
During the life of the mine, the tailings storage will require 3,000 to 4,000 acres (4.6 to 6.2 square miles) of land. The tailings consist of sandy, clay, dirt and leftover materials after ore has been mined. They are stored permanently in impoundments that must comply with strict environmental requirements for controlling dust, preventing acid, rock drainage and protecting water and other resources, as well as reclamation and closure.
RCM’s first choice for the tailings site was Pinto Valley but since it has reopened the option of using that site has been eliminated. There are several places they are looking at now. There are competing interests for the land on U.S. 60 near Florence. RCM is looking to an area west of Superior on U.S. Forest Service land along with Potts Canyon/Hewitt Canyon, Gonzales Pass and Silver King.
RCM has recently submitted an application to the U.S. Forest Service for permission to gather baseline data over a general area west of Superior covering several tailings alternatives. This means they have asked to do research which includes some drilling on the site. No decisions have been made. The application involves a review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). It may take up to a year before RCM can gain permission to gather the baseline data. NEPA is a public process, which gives opportunities for public input.
Frank Deal, the tailings manager for RCM, provided a power point presentation explaining what tailings are. He explained how they are stored, how they will be transported (pipeline), and locations they are looking at that included before and after reclamation. Many of the questions from the audience were answered in the presentation by Deal. A few questions required a little more explanation. He explained how the 3,700 jobs will be broken down. According to Deal, 1,400 jobs will be directly employed with Resolution Copper while the remainder 2,300 jobs will be with contractors as indirect employees. The ore will be hoisted through the shaft onto a conveyer and transported. The old Magma tailings site will never be used again. Legally they are not allowed to build or put together a tailing site like the Magma tailings site any longer. The legal aspects have changed. A question was asked about the possibilities of earthquakes due to the drilling but the RCM panel said they are not concerned with earthquakes.
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 you have additional unanswered questions, please feel free to email Resolution Copper at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 520-689-3409.