Legislative and Regulatory Update
February 2021 by Scott Harn
• Resolution Copper project moves closer to fruition in Arizona
The US Forest Service released an environmental review on January 15 that paves the way for the creation of one of the largest copper mines in the United States.
The Forest Service now has 60 days to turn over a tract of land in Tonto National Forest east of Phoenix to Resolution Copper Mining, a joint venture of the international mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP.
Environmentalists contend the Forest Service was pressured to push the review over the finish line before President Donald Trump leaves office, complicating their efforts to reverse the land swap. The Forest Service said that’s not true, while the mining company contends the publication already was delayed by months.
A judge on January 15 denied a request from Apache Stronghold to halt the publication until a larger question over who legally owns the land is settled.
Resolution Copper is set to receive 3.75 square miles (9.71 square kilometers) of Forest Service land in exchange for eight parcels the company owns elsewhere in Arizona. The land swap was approved in December 2014 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.
“I’m hoping to put the brakes on it and reexamine every step,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) to The Associated Press.
Resolution Copper said it has spent about $2 billion so far to gain access to the mine and conduct studies. More time and money will go into securing permits and constructing the mine, which wouldn’t begin operating for at least 15 years. Resolution Copper has said the mine could have a $61 billion economic impact over the project’s 60 years and create 1,500 jobs—points that supporters repeatedly have stressed.
“Not only will Resolution Copper be a major employer, but it will lead to construction activities and new commercial development, such as housing, hotels and retail,’’ Glenn Hamer, the president and chief executive of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry said in a statement.
A federal judge has tossed a lawsuit filed by opponents of a Tucson-area mine that had accused the US Forest Service of violating two federal laws in its handling of the mine issue.
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