Congress Approves Land Swap Bill For New Arizona Copper Mine
The U.S. Senate has approved a controversial land swap that could allow a copper mine to open near Superior, Ariz. The project is opposed by conservationists and some Arizona tribal members.
The bill was passed Friday as part of a defense spending package. Resolution Copper spokesman David Richins said his company wants to dig 3,500 feet underground to create a 2-mile wide crater at Oak Flat, just east of Superior.
“It’s an incredible find, one of the top copper deposits in all of North America, and it can supply up to 25 percent of the nation’s copper demands over the next 40 years,” Richins said.
The bill would give Resolution Copper 2,400 acres of U.S. Forest Service land and Richins said the company will give the federal government acreage it owns.
"We will be exchanging 2,500 acres of key conservation land across Arizona as identified by key conservation groups in Arizona,” he said.
But, environmentalists and the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona are not happy about the land exchange, including the San Carlos Apaches, who consider Oak Flat a sacred site. Scott Wood is a heritage program manager with the Tonto National Forest who’s been studying archaeological sites in the mine’s path.
“Most of them are prehistoric related to the Hohokam and they range in time from 800 and 900 A.D. up until possibly the late 1300s," Wood said. "Separately, there are Apache sites that date much later.”
The land swap still needs President Obama’s signature before it's enacted. Resolution Copper also needs to do five years of additional environmental studies before the mine can open.