To safely develop the Resolution Copper deposit and deliver long-term economic and social benefits to the people of Arizona, we need access to land on the site that is owned by the US government. The planned mining operations will directly impact this land.
In 2014, Congress passed federal land exchange legislation, which allows for the exchange of 2,422 acres of land above the copper deposit for 5,459 acres of Arizona land owned by Resolution Copper that will become public.
Resolution Copper is permitting one of the world’s largest untapped copper deposits in Arizona’s Copper Triangle. Once in operation, the mine could supply up to one-quarter of the nation’s copper demand. The project will create thousands of jobs and bring important economic benefits to the region. And a central component is the Congressionally-approved land exchange between Resolution Copper and the federal government, which has been more than a decade in the making.
A land exchange is a commonly used tool for managing federal lands. It involves transferring public land administered by a federal agency to another owner in exchange for other lands, through an open and transparent process. When complete, the title to the formerly federal lands is exchanged for the title to the private or state lands that are part of the exchange. Land exchanges may be administrated or legislated through approval by Congress. They serve the public interest in a variety of ways, including economic development.
The Resolution Copper land exchange is crucial to developing and operating the safest and most efficient mine possible. Per final federal land surveys, it will transfer 2,422 acres from the Tonto National Forest into Resolution Copper’s ownership. In return, the company will transfer to the government 5,459 acres of conservation lands around Arizona. The National Forest lands near Superior are underlain and surrounded by current and historic mining operations and mining claims, while the lands offered for exchange by the company are located throughout Arizona, within existing National Forests or would become part of National Conservation Areas providing long-term conservation, habitat and cultural heritage protection as well as recreational opportunities.
Input from the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Audubon and The Nature Conservancy, and others have identified the 5,459 acres of conservation lands that will become public in the land exchange.
The USFS published the Final EIS in January 2021, triggering the land exchange approved by Congress under the Obama administration in 2014.
Legislation to facilitate the land exchange between the Tonto National Forest and Resolution Copper passed with bipartisan support in December 2014 and was signed into law by President Obama. Championed by members of the Arizona Congressional delegation, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act is one of more than 80 land bills that were part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in 2014.
Based on nearly a decade of feedback from a wide range of stakeholders – including the San Carlos Apache tribe, environmental groups and the Town of Superior – the bill included a number of important changes. Most notably:
Importantly, the bill carefully addressed the needs for conservation and cultural heritage protection, as well as economic development and jobs. This land exchange is the only congressionally mandated land exchange bill requiring a comprehensive environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Resolution Copper is committed to responsibly and respectfully managing lands we own or acquire – especially those with cultural, historical and religious significance to Native Americans. Through the multi-year National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process, the USFS has conducted comprehensive government-to-government consultations with Native American tribes of Arizona and New Mexico to find mutually acceptable measures to address their concerns and minimize any adverse effects resulting from mining-related activities on the Federal land conveyed to Resolution Copper.
A legally-binding programmatic agreement between the USFS, Resolution Copper and other federal and state regulatory agencies will also be executed, setting forth cultural heritage management obligations.
The lands to be exchanged must be of equal value. For this reason, before completion of the land trade, all exchange parcels will go through an independent appraisal process directed, managed and approved by the US Secretary of Agriculture. The federal government will determine the properties’ market price according to well-documented United States Forest Service (USFS) standards. If the federal lands’ appraised value is determined to be higher than the Resolution Copper lands, the company will make up the difference, either through a payment to the US Treasury or donation of additional lands. Notably, the Act also creates a mechanism by which the federal land appraisal links to Resolution Copper’s future production. In the future, if the mine’s cumulative production of commercial quantities of minerals exceeds the amount estimated for the appraisal, Resolution Copper must make an annual adjustment payment to the United States.
Resolution Copper is already implementing the mutually agreed upon measures required in the land exchange bill with Native American tribes. We’ve designed our mine plan to protect Apache Leap, setting aside more than 800 acres of land to permanently protect this unique area as a Special Management Area (SMA) overseen by the USFS.
Specific measures were taken within the Apache Leap SMA NEPA process to accommodate tribal concerns regarding public access, grazing and other protections for culturally important locations. Monitoring of the area will continue throughout construction, operation, closure and reclamation of the proposed mine. Detailed monitoring reports will be publicly available through the USFS.
Mining operations and active mining claims have co-existed with outdoor recreation, ranching and cultural activities in the Oak Flat area for decades. The land exchange legislation specifically requires Resolution Copper to provide access to the surface of Oak Flat Campground to the public, including local communities and Native American tribes, to the maximum extent practicable, consistent with health and safety requirements. As a condition of the land exchange, Resolution Copper must provide an alternative campground site.
“Resolution Copper has already spent tens of millions of dollars to store enough surface water in the ground to sustain our operations for decades, which will result in a net zero impact to the groundwater when the stored water is recovered.”
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