A scenario is being played out on in the U.S. Senate Natural Resource committee that highlights the need for mining law reform. Resolution Copper is trying to get a piece of public Forest Service land, Oak Flat campground, which was protected by both Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon. The Brits and Australians who form the mining partnership seem willing to do anything to get their hands on the property that contains the country’s richest copper deposit—even arrange for an act of Congress.
For the sake of a few hundred jobs, Senator McCain and Senator Kyl and Rep. Anne Kirkpatrick are arranging a land exchange in Congress that foregoes the usual environmental and cultural considerations. These persons have introduced legislation in the House and Senate that will hand over 1,400 acres of Forest Service land to two multi-national mining corporations. The Forest Service has a public process to determine if the land exchange is in the public interest. As Senator Kyl explained, in this case, Congress decides what is in the public interest!
The usual public process also considers an environmental impact study under National Environmental Policy Act regulations. That assessment is crucial to the moving ahead with the exchange. The mine will obliterate the water supply to one of the treasured and species-diverse riparian ecosystem in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, as well as some one hundred oak trees in the “protected” Oak Flat area. Further, local public and private wells will be affected. Shouldn’t that impact be assessed before any exchange?
The region also has great cultural and religious significance to the local Yavapai and Apache tribes. Nearby historic Apache Leap, where some 60 Apache warriors leapt to their death to avoid capture by the U.S. Calvary, will be turned into a “store-front” cliff—if it doesn’t collapse from the “block-cave” mining technique. The mining company has recently admitted that the collapse zone from subsidence will be the size of Meteor Crater Interaction and consultation with the Native American Government officials has been non-existent.
So what will the public get? The mining company’s exchange properties are degraded, overgrazed ranch lands of minimal ecological value. One property has been owned for some time by BHP, one of the partners. They have holdings that include high quality ecological properties on the San Pedro River. However, for the exchange, they picked a parcel with a seven mile stretch of no perennial water flow, therefore, with no riparian ecosystems.
Although John McCain is known for facilitating land swaps (see www.landswaps.com) for developers with no excuse at all, in this case, he is heralding the job mantra and the $10 billion in taxes that will go to the Federal coffers. However, the company does not know the number of jobs because they do not have a Plan of Operation. Even Senator Kyl stated in the recent Congressional hearing, “They don’t even know how they will get the copper out of the ground.” They will probably use robots because of the high temperatures at 7,000 feet. The calculations show that if even if they employee 1,000 persons, only 5% of the profits will go for job expense. Further, mining corporations, like all corporations, do not pay Federal taxes. The tax money McCain was referring to will come from the income tax the employees will be paying!
So 95% of the profit made off public land will be going to the stockholders of two foreign companies with horrendous environmental records, including superfund sites in the U.S. Is this Kyl, McCain and Kirkpatrick’s idea of “public interest”? The bottom line is two senators who haven't done diddley-squat for Arizona are now giving away its biggest and richest copper deposit!
Please write all Arizona Congresspersons to let them know what you think. Below is a model letter, but expression your own ideas is best. For contact info: http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/cgi-bin/newseek.cgi?site=ctc&state=az
It is also a good idea to write the two chairmans of Natural Resource and Public Lands:
Senator Bingaman: firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Wyden: http://wyden.senate.gov/contact/
Dear Senator (or Representative),
As owners and stewards of the Public Lands of the United States, we are responsible for overseeing our assets on these lands. Presently, the country’s richest copper deposit is under public land that was protected by Presidential Order by Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon.
The land exchange now being considered by the Public Lands sub-committee of the Senate Natural Resource and Energy committee is a ploy to circumvent the normal administrative land exchange process. As put forward by the Forest Service representative, the administrative process includes a NEPA analysis to determine if the mining operations will be in the best interest of the public. NEPA is our nations’ Magna Carta for protecting our environment. It allows citizen owners review and oversight of land exchanges of public property. Even Senator Kyl stated in the recent Congressional hearing, “They don’t even know how they will get the copper out of the ground.”
Concerns for water in a desert region are paramount. The first concern is for dewatering of the public wells and ranchers wells in the immediate region and Florence Junction, where the previous mining company had supply wells. The second concern is for the dewatering crucial habitat of some 100 oak trees at Oak Flat and the pristine riparian systems of Devil’s Canyon.
In addition, the cultural considerations must be addressed. The Native Americans have been excluded from the process. The profound cultural, religious and historic impacts on the Yavapai and Apache Nations must be considered.
Will the richest copper deposit ever be mined? Probably. But not until mining technology has advanced to the level that devastation of the landscape, acres of waste rock piles, sulfuric acid leach pads, and slurry impoundments are no longer necessary. Further, when the deposit is mined, it should be done by a public co-op, so that the estimated $150 billion can remain in the country to benefit the public interest instead of going to foreign corporations and stockholders.
We implore you to refuse the ploy of Bill S.409 to circumvent necessary science to determine the impacts of mining in the Oak Flat region and allow the Forest Service to proceed with the needed administrative environmental assessments. At this time, the Forest Service is conducting an Environmental Assessment of roadways and additional exploration in the region. We are sure you would not want to circumvent this assessment, which is now in process.
Thank you for your attention to these concerns,
Sign your name with all your contact info: address, phone number