Record of news reports on Land Exchange Bill S.2466 in chronological order
Superior Sitting on Copper Fortune: Deep ore lures pricey project
by Chip Scutari
LONDON - The old Arizona mining town of Superior has felt more bust than boom over the past decade, but a deep-pocketed British corporation wants to revive the area's glory days with a $2 billion mining investment.
Resolution Copper Co., a subsidiary of British mining giant Rio Tinto, found a huge underground ore body that sits more than 7,000 feet below the surface.
Rio Tinto's top brass, including Chief Executive Officer Leigh Clifford, told Gov. Janet Napolitano this week that they will spend at least $200 million over the next five years to tap into the copper body and make the project work. Getting at the copper could cost more than $2 billion, an investment the British company is willing to make for its payoff down the road.
"Make no bones about it, the world will need copper," Clifford told Napolitano and other state officials. "It will be 10 years from discovery to development. It's one of the huge bodies of copper in the world. And we're spending a lot of money to make it work."
Napolitano smiled when the mining executives talked about the job-generating potential of the project. The one-hour meeting was a key part of her four-day overseas trade mission, which she hopes will spur long-term benefits for all of Arizona. She said the mining project is part of an overall strategy to attract more British business and tourists to the Grand Canyon State.
The Resolution Project will provide about 1,400 construction jobs and 400 permanent jobs once it started operation. Bruno Hegner, who's heading the project for Resolution, said the permanent jobs will probably pay salaries of $60,000 or more. Hegner said the workers must be computer literate and know how to work automated equipment.
Resolution Copper has already spent $35 million in preliminary work, and the company will pump an additional $4.5 million into the mine in 2005. Located at the Old Magma Mine's Shaft No. 9 east of town, it could be the deepest copper mine in Arizona and maybe in all of Ameri- ca.
The company, Hegner said, will use a block cave technique to extract the ore. That involves tunneling below the deposit and blasting the ore loose from above, sort of like an upside-down open pit.
But there are obstacles.
Heat. The ore is so deep that temperatures could reach 175 degrees Fahrenheit, requiring refrigerated air to be pumped into the shaft.
Depth. The drills will have to descend 7,000 feet.
"Water. The project will require about 20,000 acre-feet per year.
"Stress. The company will have to find a way to keep holes from closing up because of the tremendous gravity pressures.
Time. The mine won't officially open until 2014. There will be five years of environmental assessments and tests.
Despite the challenges, Napolitano said the mining endeavor could be a gold mine for Arizona.
"This has been identified as one of the major new mining ventures in the world," Napolitano told The Arizona Republic. "This will be much more consistent with environmental protection goals and restoration. They will restore the lands to their pre-mine appearance. That is very, very exciting."
"It's a great potential for that part of the state," Jimenez said. "The mining communities are in such great need of economic development.
"The commitment of a major, multinational firm to that part of the state is incredible," he said. "It will help the area, help schools and revive the area."
Land swap may aid mining
Mar. 26, 2005
by Teya Vitu
TUCSON - Two large parcels of land in southern Arizona may be part of a land swap that could pave the way for possible renewed copper mining outside Superior, the historic mining community about 65 miles east of Phoenix.
Resolution Copper Mining has proposed giving six parcels of land it owns to the federal government in exchange for some federal land. Acquiring the federal parcel would nearly double Resolution's land holdings surrounding Superior. This would give Resolution complete access to what is believed to be the largest underground copper deposit in North America under the closed Magma Mine, said Bruno Hegner, Resolution's general manager.
The two main Resolution parcels are 3,073 acres along the lower San Pedro River and 1,030 acres of Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch land in
southeastern Santa Cruz County. These along with four smaller parcels closer to Phoenix would be exchanged for 3,025 acres of Tonto National Forest land adjoining land owned jointly by the Resolution, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton mining companies.
Congress must approve the land swap. A bill proposing the land exchange is expected to be introduced in Congress early next month.
Gov. Janet Napolitano, the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy and the Sonoran Institute have all sent Hegner letters of support.
However, opposition is building from a group of rock climbers, recreation lovers and others, who have banded together as Friends of Queen Creek.
They object to the current mining method, which would end access to the Oak Flat campground in the Pinal Mountains, as well as a popular rock-climbing site.
Resolution officials said they talked to every federal land-management
agency in Arizona to get a sense of what would make a good trade.
"We were looking for what lands in southeast Arizona are in the greatest danger of development and needed protection," Hegner said.
The two southern Arizona parcels would go to the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
San Pedro and Appleton both serve as migratory stops for birds, and both feature significant bosque mesquite and grassland growths.
Resolution has spent the past four years and nearly $40 million in preliminary evaluation to start mining again at the Magma Mine, which was in operation from 1910 to 1996. Resolution has found large deposits 4,000 feet below the lowest spot in Magma mine - about 7,000 feet below the surface.
The deposits' depth poses a challenge, Hegner said. "We have to go down and touch this thing to determine if we can build or mine or not," Hegner said.
"We will spend $200 million to $300 million to determine that."
Resolution now has 10 employees but could ramp up to about 100 by the end of the year as the project moves to the feasibility stage. At full construction, the Resolution project could create 1,000 jobs, which would ramp down to about 450 when copper mining starts.
Hegner believes it will take 10 to 15 years before mining starts.
These are the properties Resolution Copper Co. proposes to swap the federal government for the 3,025-acre Oak Flat parcel east of Superior:
Lower San Pedro River, 3,073 acres in Pinal County near Mammoth.
Appleton Ranch, 1,031 acres in Santa Cruz County south of Elgin.
Turkey Creek, 147 acres in Gila County north of Superior.
Tangle Creek, 148 acres in Yavapai County, 20 miles north of Carefree.
Cave Creek, 149 acres in Maricopa County north of Cave Creek.
JI Ranch, 266 acres in Pinal County northeast of Superior.
S.1122 Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2005
(Introduced in Senate)
Land swap bill is corporate land grab, not conservation
Guest Opinion: Tucson Citizen
Arizonans must rally against the so-called Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2005.
This legislation attempts to bypass public review by being introduced directly to Congress.
It should be titled the "Resolution Copper Co. Land Grab Bill of 2005," since the intended beneficiary is a foreign-owned mining company seeking to cash in on Arizona's natural resources.
At the center of this controversy is Oak Flat campground in Tonto National Forest near the town of Superior.
Oak Flat is a historic layover on the road from Phoenix to Globe and centerpiece of one of Arizona's most spectacular and diverse recreation areas, home to hiking, biking, birding, bouldering, climbing, camping, canyoneering, four-wheel drive enthusiasts and other outdoor users.
It boasts the largest collection of rock-climbing routes in all of Arizona, and is on the Maricopa Audubon Society's list of key birding hot spots in Central Arizona. Five species on the National Audubon Society's watch list of those declining and of conservation concern have been sighted at Oak Flat.
On the western side of Oak Flat are two signature landmarks of Central Arizona: Queen Creek Canyon and Apache Leap, with breathtaking cliffs soaring above U.S. 60 and Superior.
On the eastern side is Devil's Canyon with its incredible Five Pools and some of the finest remaining riparian habitat in all of Arizona.
In recognition of Oak Flat's unique value, Public Land Order 1229 was issued in 1955, to set aside Oak Flat as a Forest Service campground and withdraw it from mining.
Although the mining industry has made many attempts to wrest Oak Flat from the public, the Forest Service always has rejected them.
Now Resolution Copper has bought the old Magma Mine next to Oak Flat and is trying to make an end run around the Forest Service by seeking a congressionally legislated land exchange.
Such methods usually are used when proponents know the exchange won't pass the "smell test" of public opinion.
RCC's exchange proposes what Public Land Order 1229 sought to prevent―destruction of Oak Flat by mining.
If profit motives can revoke Oak Flat's protection, then no recreation area, wildlife refuge or national park is safe.
Resolution Copper is offering to trade a few parcels valued in the millions of dollars for Oak Flat and its recreational treasures and copper reserves worth billions.
RCC is trying to hustle this swap through Congress without answering the most basic questions about its mining plan of operations:
Where will RCC get the necessary 20,000 acre-feet of water per year for its mining operation?
Where will all that wastewater go after RCC uses it in the mining process?
Where will the mountains of waste rock from this mine go? What will be the result of surface subsidence from RCC's preferred block caving mining method (an "upside down open-pit mine," according to RCC General Manager Bruno Hegner)?
Why does RCC get to hire the appraisers who will determine the value of the lands to be exchanged? Doesn't this guarantee that results of the land exchange will be more satisfactory to RCC than to the American public? Isn't this an example of the fox guarding the henhouse?
The Resolution Copper mining project promises a few hundred jobs for 20 years or so, but 55 percent of the profits will go to England, 45 percent will go to Australia, and Arizona will get the shaft.
The previous mine at Superior closed less than 10 years ago. One only has to drive down the town's boarded-up Main Street to realize that mining's economic benefits are not sustainable.
A more sustainable future for Superior lies in the tourism and recreational values that RCC's mine will destroy.
If it is in Arizona's best interest to trade away public lands for a foreign-owned company's profit, then there should be a public process.
Resolution Copper should give fair value for the ore. The public should be informed of RCC's mining plan and probable impacts on water resources and state landmarks.
Resolution Copper has indicated it may not be ready to mine for 10 to 15 years. There is ample time for careful and deliberate decision-making, and this decision should be made through the administrative process of the Forest Service, allowing for public oversight and input.
I urge all Arizonans to contact their U.S. senators and representatives and ask them to reject this one-sided land exchange. For more information, you can visit the Friends of Queen Creek Web site - www.friendsofqueencreek.com or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Ted Gartner is an avid hiker and rock climber and volunteer outdoor activities
chairman for the Sierra Club's Palo Verde Group in the Phoenix area.
Land-swap proposal serves both masters
Arizona Republic Opinion
Apr. 14, 2006
Rarely do conservation groups find much to like about the development of a copper mine. Arizona's landscape is littered with open pits and mounds of tailings left by copper companies that have ceased production.
But some respected conservation groups are backing a measure that would allow Resolution Copper Co. to dig deep for copper near Superior. Resolution wants to extract ore from depths of 7,000 feet, using a combination of robots, machines and manpower.
If successful, the economic benefits to Superior and nearby towns in the form of high-wage jobs - perhaps even a return to the boom years when copper reigned supreme - would be huge.
Equally significant would be the environmental benefits to Arizona. That is because eight parcels of more than 5,000 acres of riparian habitat, grasslands and prime eco-system lands would be turned over to the federal government, protected for future generations to enjoy.
It's all contained in the Southern Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2006, introduced by Arizona Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain. The measure is supported by an impressive lineup of groups, including Audubon Arizona, the Nature Conservancy, the Superstition Area Land Trust and the Sonoran Institute.
For Resolution Copper Co. to revive mining's heyday in Superior, it needs control of slightly more than 3,000 acres of Forest Service land above the ore body. Hence, the land-swap legislation in Congress that will get its first committee hearing by next month.
The exchange has the backing of Gov. Janet Napolitano and all but one member of the state's congressional delegation.
Resolution's plans almost were waylaid. That is because Oak Flat campground is on the targeted Forest Service land, and it's much more than a spot on which to pitch a tent. It's the state's best rock-climbing area. Outdoor enthusiasts had vowed a fight to keep Oak Flat and Devil's Canyon, prime climbing areas, open.
Resolution said it would find an alternative spot for the climbers, and it has made good on its promise.
After four months of searching, a geologist and climber hired by Resolution found an 800-acre area at Tam O'Shanter Peak, 20 miles southeast of Oak Flat, that is drawing rave reviews from climbers.
The area, near Kearny, Hayden and Winkelman, is to be turned into a state park for climbers that state officials say will have the international marketing potential to rival Kartchner Caverns near Benson.
A bill to establish Copper State Park is moving nicely through the Legislature, and the state Parks Board expects that Resolution will pay a portion of the $6.5 million to create a world-class climbing area. The park is an essential piece of the package, and legislators should make sure that Senate Bill 1550 passes.
There is no downside to the pending federal legislation. The private lands that would be conveyed to the federal government by Resolution are ecologically significant, none more so than almost seven miles of the Lower San Pedro River and its unique riparian corridor through Pinal County. The area contains a mesquite bosque that is believed to be one of the oldest in Arizona and is a critical wildlife corridor for migrant birds.
Once Resolution gains control of the federal lands, it is prepared to spend $2 billion getting the mine into production by about 2014. There will be no smelter in Superior, so tailings there will not be an issue. Vast amounts of water will be required, but it will not be taken from the basin. The company has purchased Central Arizona Project water that is being banked underground.
Time is an issue. Congress often moves at a glacier pace - the Yavapai Ranch land exchange in northern Arizona took almost 10 years - but this should not be as contentious.
Besides, there is a unique incentive to get it passed as quickly as possible: If the value of the private property exceeds the public land value, Resolution has agreed to let Superior use the excess value to purchase lands for that community's economic development: a 30-acre cemetery and up to 460 acres of federal lands on both sides of U.S. 60. This would give Superior lands necessary for economic development and expansion.
Preserving unique wildlife and riparian habitat, creating a new state park and opening the way for a huge financial investment in Superior add up to one thing: A great deal for Arizona and its citizens.
Oak Flat, AZ— Open for Climbing
The Access Fund Press Release
June 13, 2006
After 2+ years of negotiations, the Access Fund has successfully negotiated a license that will keep climbing open for most of Oak Flat and Queen Creek, AZ.
The license ensures continued public access to The Pond and Atlantis sport climbing areas—Resolution Copper Company (RCC) private property—and to most of the bouldering found at Oak Flat (public land that will be transferred to RCC in the SE Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2006 which still awaits Congressional approval).
Oak Flat is a federally protected national recreation area set aside in 1955. RCC discovered a copper deposit under the popular bouldering area and proposed the land exchange bill. The Access Fund strongly opposed the land exchange as it was initially drafted and negotiated an outcome that provided continued access to much of Oak Flat and Queen Creek. With the help of climbers across the country, decision makers heard climbers’ voices and while the land exchange moves forward, climbers’ interests are being addressed.
Access Fund Policy Director Jason Keith explains, “preserving Oak Flat access was a long and complicated process that we engaged in due to the threat of completely losing Oak Flat. All climbing areas are unique and they can’t be replaced by simply bolting new crags elsewhere.”
What Climbers Have Won
The Access Fund’s efforts, along with the Friends of Queen Creek (FoQC) www.friendsofqueencreek.com, have created a cooperative relationship with RCC to allow continued access to Oak Flat for a period of 5 years (or longer subject to RCC’s exploration and mining development in the area) after the land exchange takes effect. This recreational use license also provides continued public access to The Pond and Atlantis – two popular crags on RCC property in Queen Creek Canyon that could have been closed at any time by the mining company. This process of negotiation also resulted in RCC providing climbers a “replacement area” at Tam O’Shanter Peak (Tamo). Tamo will become a state park that specifically accommodates climbers when the land exchange becomes law.
What Climbers Have Lost
Due to their close proximity to RCC’s existing mining operations, two climbing areas on RCC private property—Eurodog Valley and The Mine Area—will be closed to public access once the SE Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2006 becomes law. Further, RCC may begin some limited test drilling on small parcels of 3,025 acre Oak Flat which may affect access periodically and temporarily.
What Climbers Would Have Lost
If the Access Fund and FoQC had not stepped in and aggressively defended climber interests, climbers could have lost all access to Oak Flat and had no assurance of continued access to Atlantis and The Pond.
While not all climbing access was maintained, a clear message has been sent challenging the precedent that federally protected public lands can be sold as soon as something of value is discovered, thus pushing out the user groups of those lands. This is a victory for the Access Fund and the climbing community’s long-term vision of protecting climbing resources for future generations.
“This victory sends a strong message that we, the owners of public lands, are not going to accept losing our land because of a short-term money-making objective,” says Steve Matous, the Access Fund’s Executive Director. “The long-term benefits of protecting our public lands, and in this case a public recreation area, far outweigh short term uses that change the landscape forever.”
Despite a sometimes adversarial campaign to Save Oak Flat, the Access Fund created a “winning political and negotiating strategy by involving local Arizona climbers, holding firm to our mission, and using every advocacy tool available to us,” says Keith. Efforts included organizing a local climbing advocacy organization (FoQC), lobbying at the federal, state and local levels, working with the outdoor industry, supporting local outreach efforts, and consulting with mining and public lands experts.
Curt Shannon of FoQC explains, “Oak Flat is an important place for many climbers and other people to experience the magic of the desert. Maintaining access to this area is important on so many levels. As a climbing community, we can’t just throw up our hands and walk away to find a new place to climb when closure is threatened. The Access Fund and the Friends of Queen Creek were the only united front in trying to keep Oak Flat open and while it’s not a perfect arrangement, it’s far better than losing Oak Flat altogether.”
About The Access Fund Since 1990, the Access Fund has been the only national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. The Access Fund supports and represents over 1.6 million climbers nationwide in ALL forms of climbing; rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, and bouldering. Five core programs support the mission on national and local levels: public policy, stewardship & conservation (including grants), grassroots activism, climber education, and land acquisition. For more information visit "www.accessfund.org/" or www.boulderproject.org/.
Firm hand needed to guide mining deal
Arizona Republic, Opinion
Aug 24, 2006
The momentum behind a complex land exchange to enable the Resolution Copper Co. to begin $300 million worth of site preparation for a huge underground mine in Superior has slowed needlessly.
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., is ready to move ahead on a heavily bipartisan bill that would allow the project to go forward. He is lead sponsor of the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2006. The bill enjoys widespread support from state and local political leaders, much of the conservation community, and business interests.
The bill easily passed a Senate subcommittee. And mark-up of the legislation, where any changes will be made before the bill goes to the Senate floor, will be soon.
In the House, it's potentially a different story. There, the lead sponsor, Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., is waffling, presumably because of concerns of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. Renzi's sprawling district includes the San Carlos.
Renzi has stopped trying to facilitate communications between interested parties, but he has urged the tribe to reopen discussions with Resolution Copper. Instead, the tribe has taken a stand against the legislation and says it will not reopen talks until after the tribal elections in November.
Written communications between Resolution and Renzi indicate the tribe's concerns fall into three main categories:
Job guarantees for tribal members.
Management of the proposed conservation easement for Apache Leap, the gorgeous escarpment that rises above Superior and is sacred to the Apaches.
Access to oak trees at Oak Flat, where Apaches historically have picked acorns.
All three issues appear to have been satisfactorily addressed
John Rickus, president of Resolution Copper, addressed the question of jobs in a July 5 letter to Renzi. He wrote: "(W)e are very open to providing employment opportunities for them. To achieve this we will need to engage with them directly to determine the approach that they wish to follow - scholarships, job training . . . "
Under the proposed bill, Apache Leap would not be desecrated. Subsurface mining is prohibited below the mountain and the bill specifies a conservation easement. If the Apaches want to manage the easement, bill supporters are prepared to permit that.
The bill would give Apaches access to Oak Flat to pick acorns, and would allow entry into other lands for additional acorn picking.
Delays now could multiply later
Rickus and Renzi are scheduled to meet today. Renzi says he's committed to introducing legislation "that'll go to protect (the Apaches') cultural history, their sacred sites." But he says he will do it on his time frame, after getting a clearer understanding of "where all the sacred sites are."
For its part, Resolution is prepared to resolve additional Apache concerns that Renzi raises. Here are two that he discussed with The Arizona Republic:
The conservation easement for Apache Leap should be larger.
Several burial sites need protection.
A Resolution spokesman says the tribe and Forest Service conducted a cultural inventory, and Resolution has agreed to extend the easement to cover its private lands.
The copper company is on the verge of lining up $300 million in financing for its first phase. Passage of the legislation this fall will facilitate that, and begin the process to determine the size of the underground ore body.
Why unnecessarily prolong a process now in its third year?
To delay congressional action until next year could be a costly gamble. One chamber of Congress could change hands in the November elections, which could slow the bill considerably.
Kyl is ready to roll in the Senate. Renzi needs to do the same in the House. A broad range of supporters say Resolution has addressed tribal concerns and pledged to continue to do so. The bill also spells out remedies and prohibitions.
Ideally, the issue could be wrapped up in the lame-duck session after the November elections. If Apache concerns persist, they could be dealt with at that time.
This legislation has been vetted and refined over several years. The economic and environmental benefits of the land trade are impressive.
Renzi needs to take charge, and soon
Here's how it would work: To revive the region's mining heyday, Resolution Copper needs to control slightly more than 3,000 acres of Forest Service land above the ore body. It plans to spend $2 billion to get an underground mine into production by 2014. In exchange, Resolution will trade 5,000 acres of riparian habitat and grasslands that it owns in Arizona to the federal government.
The state has done its part, too. Lawmakers this year established Copper State Park for a world-class rock-climbing area, which is contingent on the federal land-trade legislation.
Renzi needs to take the lead again and get the issue moving. Apache concerns should be addressed to get the bill rolling in the House, and Renzi's meeting today with Rickus offers the opportunity to do that.
Renzi is the logical representative to carry the bill in the House. But if he can't bring himself to act in Arizona's best interest, he should step aside and let another House member—perhaps Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.,—take the leadership role.
The choice is his.
The Superior Mine is not about jobs and acorns!
To the Editor of Arizona Republic:
The reason the Resolution Copper deal has not been finalized is there is much more to the picture than you care to portray in your unsigned editorial. First and foremost, this will be a tunnel mine down some 7,000 feet. Groundwater will be hit at what level? Where will the groundwater be pumped to for optimum conservation? Is there potential for the pumping to create a cone of depression that will suck down all the wells in the region? As we know, the tunnel mines in Tombstone finally had to be shut down because of the problems of pumping water out of the tunnels. There needs to be a study done of the impact on the groundwater levels by an objective party.
The second issue that you have not mentioned is the problem of subsidence and sink holes in the area of the tunnels, making the landscape an unsightly and unstable reality.
The third issue is have you actually seen the land that is to be traded by Resolution Copper Company? I saw photos of it, provided by Resolution Copper, and it was nothing but wasteland. Are these sites accessible for public use? And what would the public do on overgrazed scrub land? A careful and realistic analysis needs to be done.
The fourth issue is the continual motto of “any compromise for the sake of jobs.” The Native Americans are realizing there are more important values than just “jobs.” The Dine have ordered that no uranium mining be done on their land. I am absolutely sure that for the Apaches it is not about jobs and acorns. Did you talk to them about their sacred ground that will be desecrated with dirt, noise and dynamite blasts. Do you know how big those trucks are? And what about the railroad that will have to cart the ore to be smeltered? Do we need more jobs in that area? Many former miners have told me that they will not go into a tunnel. With two accidents in West Virginia and one in Mexico in the last year—we do not have to question why.
Typically, the big money from mining in Arizona—that is, for management and stockholders—has always gone back East, while Arizonians got the lower paying jobs. Resolution Copper means the profits are flying over to Britain. The writer of the editorial appears blissfully to take the position that another “mine” in Arizona is a good thing. I have to wonder what’s in it for Arizonians?? Maybe some more houses can be built? Is this what we want?
There are some serious technical, economic and cultural issues that must be addressed. I hope that one representative in DC is smart enough to realize this fact. For more details, see report on the website: www.G-A-L.info/Superior.htm.
Groundwater Awareness League
P.S. Next time you want to tout mining, check out this video: Mining—no significant environmental effects. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXC28jZgJWg
It’ll set you thinking.
Apaches will defy mine that threatens sacred lands
My Turn: Arizona Republic
Aug. 28, 2006
Kathy W. Kitcheyan, Chairwoman of the San Carlos Apache
Editor's note: The following is in response to the Thursday editorial "Firm hand needed to guide mining deal," which supported efforts in Congress to effect a complex land exchange to enable the Resolution Copper Co. to begin site preparation for a huge underground copper mine near Superior.
Our position is simple and straightforward. For the Apaches, this area, which includes Oak Flat campground and Apache Leap, belongs to the Gaan, who are our sacred Crowndancers.
Since time immemorial, we have found refuge there and gathered precious medicinal herbs and traditional food there.
Our goal is to protect these sites from potential ruin. Once they are lost, they can never be regained. Our people will not sacrifice our ancestors' legacy and our children's future for the political expediency of moving legislation forward that does not protect these sites.
The Republic's editorial stated that tribal concerns have been "satisfactorily addressed." However, this is simply not true. The fact is that SB 2466 does not contain provisions that adequately protect our sacred sites.
For example, the Oak Flat Campground will be closed after two years due to safety concerns associated with the mining process.
Also, while the conservation easement accommodates the town of Superior's concerns over its scenic view, as well as the rock-climbing communities' concern over its continued recreational enjoyment in that area, it does not address the Apache people's cultural, religious and historical concerns.
When Resolution Copper Co. was putting together this land exchange package over the past few years, it reached out to many groups to discuss the legislation but it never approached the San Carlos Apache Tribal Council.
Resolution Copper never once sat down with the council to discuss the land exchange, and instead, chose to rely on the U.S. Forest Service's representations of the tribe's views.
We are now in the process of trying to learn as much as possible about the potential impacts of the proposed mining on this land, including the environmental effects and the impact on our sacred sites. Resolution Copper is still trying to determine the extent of the impact of operations on the site.
Resolution Copper has indicated it is not sure what the extent of the "crinkling" on the surface would be from the mining but that it would be at least a mile in diameter.
Also, we understand that it is still trying to determine what the impact of the mining would have on the water table below the surface.
In order to bypass objections to these impacts, we understand that Resolution Copper is pushing for the land exchange to be exempt from the National Environmental Policy Act. If this occurs, then the environmental impacts will not have to be assessed on the project.
The Apaches will not, under any condition, allow our ancestral lands to be compromised. No society would allow for the religious desecration of their sacred sites and neither will the Apache.
Investigation could impact copper, water deals
Friday, May 11, 2007
The FBI investigation into a land deal involving Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi could affect the Resolution copper mine and water resources in the Upper San Pedro Basin, with further domino-like impacts.
The Arizona Daily Star last month reported that:
“a 480-acre retired farm on the San Pedro River, …could also threaten the future of Fort Huachuca, officials say. There are concerns that the farm — the critical property in two failed land swaps aimed at protecting the San Pedro — could now be put back into agricultural use, jeopardizing efforts to balance water use in the region, which in turn could force cutbacks or even closure of the fort. … Critics say the first failed swap benefited James Sandlin, a friend and former business partner of Renzi's.”
“Because of its closeness to the San Pedro and the amount of water the retired farmland once used, the Sandlin property is crucial to the river and, in turn, neighboring Fort Huachuca, which is under court order to cut water consumption in and around the river.
“The fort’s future and the future of the San Pedro are inextricably linked,” said Col. Jonathan Hunter, the fort’s garrison commander.”
Bill Hess of the Sierra Vista Herald/Review wrote yesterday that, “The land involved in the swap has been put back on the market. [emphasis added] Some believe that if it is sold to a developer or to an agricultural business, water will again be pumped to the detriment of the river and the partnership’s goal of finding ways to conserve water."
The Herald reports that the water deficit in the Upper San Pedro Basin - the difference between what is being pumped from the aquifer and what is being recharged – is 10,800 acre-feet, instead of the previously measured 7,700 acre-feet, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The higher number is due to better quality measurements.
This double whammy will make it harder to meet the region's water goals.
Another twist on these complex deals is a recent Wall Street Journal story that described the land deal role in the Resolution copper mine:
“North America's largest copper lode is believed to be buried more than a mile beneath Apache Leap, the stark red cliffs that loom above this storied Old West town about an hour east of Phoenix. Resolution Copper Co., a joint venture between Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, wants to mine it. But first it needs Congress to approve a federal land exchange, under which Resolution would swap 5,000 acres of private land for 3,000 acres of public land near its planned mine.
In exchange for supporting the bill, the local congressman, Rick Renzi, a Republican, insisted on something in return: He wanted Resolution to buy, as part of the land swap, a 480-acre alfalfa field near his hometown of Sierra Vista, according to documents and people involved in the deal.
Resolution executives refused. For starters, they thought the land was overpriced, people close to the deal say. More troubling, they discovered it was owned by Mr. Renzi's former business partner, these people say.
Resolution wasn't the only party troubled by the congressman's demands. His chief of staff resigned and began cooperating secretly with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to witnesses and others close to the case. The FBI began a preliminary inquiry that was first reported in October, just before Mr. Renzi was elected to a third term.”
Land-Swap Plan Causes Trouble Congressman
The Wall Street Journal
April 21, 2007
By John R. Wilke
SUPERIOR, Ariz. -- As they dig for nickel, copper and other commodities in the far corners of the earth, the world's largest mining companies, Rio Tinto PLC and BHP Billiton Ltd., are used to solving geological problems. Here, though, the problems they encountered were political. North America's largest copper lode is believed to be buried more than a mile beneath Apache Leap, the stark red cliffs that loom above this storied Old West town about an hour east of Phoenix. Resolution Copper Co., a joint venture between Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, wants to mine it. But first it needs Congress to approve a federal land exchange, under which Resolution would swap 5,000 acres of private land for 3,000 acres of public land near its planned mine.
In exchange for supporting the bill, the local congressman, Rick Renzi, a Republican, insisted on something in return: He wanted Resolution to buy, as part of the land swap, a 480-acre alfalfa field near his hometown of Sierra Vista, according to documents and people involved in the deal.
Resolution executives refused. For starters, they thought the land was overpriced, people close to the deal say. More troubling, they discovered it was owned by Mr. Renzi's former business partner, these people say.
Resolution wasn't the only party troubled by the congressman's demands. His chief of staff resigned and began cooperating secretly with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to witnesses and others close to the case. The FBI began a preliminary inquiry that was first reported in October, just before Mr. Renzi was elected to a third term.
That investigation has now become a formal public-corruption probe by a federal grand jury in Tucson. On Thursday, the grand jury authorized a search warrant of a Renzi family business. Investigators have uncovered evidence that Mr. Renzi received a cash payment from his former business partner, funneled through a family wine company, after a second investor group pursuing an unrelated land swap agreed to pay $4 million for the alfalfa field, according to people contacted in the course of the two-year investigation.
Mr. Renzi denies any wrongdoing and says that he intends to cooperate with the investigation. The search of the family business, he said in a statement Friday, is "the first step toward getting the truth out." His lawyer says the cash payment he received was to settle an unrelated debt.
The case could add fuel to the firestorm over the Bush administration's firing of federal prosecutors late last year. Paul Charlton, the U.S. Attorney who had been overseeing the case, was among those dismissed at the behest of the White House. A spokesman for Mr. Renzi dismissed as "a political hatchet job" the suggestion that Mr. Charlton's firing was connected to the probe of Mr. Renzi. On Thursday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told Congress that none of the dismissals were politically motivated, and said the Justice Department is committed to battling corruption.
The Renzi case is the latest in a wave of public-corruption investigations of local and federal officials. At least five members of Congress -- three Republicans and two Democrats -- are now under federal criminal scrutiny. Two former members, both Republicans, have gone to prison in the past year. Voter polls have suggested that the investigations were one reason Republicans lost control of Congress last November.
The Renzi case spotlights the potential for abuse in the murky world of legislated land swaps, which have become more common in recent years. Thousands of acres of public land worth hundreds of millions of dollars change hands each year through narrow special-interest bills. There is little public scrutiny, and often no vote is recorded in Congress. Some swaps serve public goals, such as protecting wild habitat. Others enrich private interests at taxpayers' expense, sometimes sidestepping federal rules in the process.
The proposed Arizona land exchange would sweep aside a 1954 order by President Eisenhower protecting national forest in the area, including Oak Flats, a campground located above the proposed mine. "Yet another piece of land that was being 'permanently' protected is being put on the block because a private interest has use for it," Janine Blaeloch, director of the nonprofit Western Lands Project, complained to Congress last year.
Resolution, which declined to comment about its contacts with Mr. Renzi, has said it hopes to sink 7,000-foot shafts into the ground to reach the rich vein of copper ore. It has worked for years to win support for the mine, reaching out to local officials, environmentalists and rock-climbing groups. Arizona's governor and most members of its congressional delegation are backers. The governor told a Senate hearing last year the project could bring 1,000 jobs and $1 billion or more to the state's economy.
Although Superior has long been a mining town, it has escaped some of the ravages of open-pit mining that have scarred nearby towns. It is rich in natural beauty, including otherworldly rock formations and steep cliffs that draw thousands of climbers each year. Mayor Michael Hing sees the new mine as a way to escape the boom-and-bust cycles that have whipsawed the town for more than a century, ever since silver was discovered in 1875 at the Silver Queen mine and hundreds flocked to town, including famed gunslingers Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp.
In order to secure the use of the government land for mining, Resolution has proposed buying a number of parcels elsewhere and transferring them to government entities for uses completely unrelated to mining. The town of Superior, for example, would get title to the town graveyard, now on federal land. Climbers would get another place to explore. Resolution says the vast Apache Leap rock escarpment -- so named because Apache warriors on horseback are said to have jumped to their deaths to evade capture -- would be protected. The San Carlos Apache tribe opposes the mine, citing concerns that culturally significant areas would be disturbed.
Mr. Renzi told Resolution in 2005 that his support for the land swap would hinge in part on whether it helped fulfill a goal to cut water consumption along the San Pedro River, which slices through the desert far from the mining area, in southern Arizona, participants in the deal say. Fort Huachuca, a big U.S. Army base nearby, was under court order to cut water consumption, and it had been seeking help to retire farmland near the river. Mr. Renzi has longstanding ties to the base, the economic engine of the area. He grew up near it, and his father, retired U.S. Army Gen. Eugene Renzi, is its former commandant, now employed by one of its largest contractors, ManTech Corp.
Resolution proposed buying and handing over to the government thousands of acres of bird and wildlife habitat along the banks of the San Pedro, which would further the water-conservation goal.
In early 2005, however, Resolution balked at buying the 480-acre alfalfa field owned by Mr. Renzi's business partner, James Sandlin. Mr. Renzi then turned to another investment group, called the Petrified Forest group, that was looking to put together a unrelated land swap. That group, which included Bruce Babbitt, the former governor, agreed that April to buy the patch of farmland for nearly $4 million, says Philip Aries, a land-swap expert that was part of the group.
"Congressman Renzi told me that the purchase of the Sandlin parcel was a matter of national security, and that it was key to ensuring the viability of Fort Huachuca," Mr. Aries says. "He said that if we were to buy it before" upcoming hearings about the possible closure of the base, "he would give our swap priority -- a 'free pass,' he said, would be sure to get through the Natural Resources Committee," thereby ensuring its approval.
Mr. Aries says that after his group's purchase of the alfalfa field went through in 2005, Resolution complained that the Petrified Forest group had gotten priority treatment, and Mr. Renzi dropped his support for that group's land swap.
Mr. Aries, Resolution executives and others involved in the proposed transactions have been interviewed about the matter by the FBI, people close to the case say. Mr. Aries declines to discuss those conversations, or other details of his group's dealings with Mr. Renzi. Mr. Sandlin, the former owner of the alfalfa field, declines to comment.
Public records show that Mr. Sandlin and Mr. Renzi became business partners in 2001, when Mr. Sandlin bought shares of Fountain Realty & Development, one of Mr. Renzi's companies. In 2002 and 2003, Mr. Sandlin paid his partner between $1 million and $5 million for Mr. Renzi's stake in that business, according to House financial-disclosure records.
In 2004, a Federal Election Commission audit found that Mr. Renzi had received a total of $369,000 in illegal corporate funds from Fountain in the 2002 election cycle. It found that Fountain had shifted $131,000 of this through Mr. Renzi's personal accounts to the Renzi for Congress campaign account -- and that at least $70,000 of it was put back into Mr. Renzi's personal account.
Mr. Sandlin bought the alfalfa field in 2003 for about $1 million, land records show. The farmland, more than a mile wide, with mountains rising on two sides, lies fallow today.
One focus of the FBI's current investigation is whether Mr. Renzi profited from the sale of Mr. Sandlin's land to the Petrified Forest group, people close to the case say. Federal investigators have been asking questions about a May 2005 payment of $200,000 from Mr. Sandlin to Mr. Renzi, which was sent the same day that Mr. Sandlin received the first payment from the Petrified Forest group, these people say. The payment went to a wine company owned by Mr. Renzi, which was sold to his father days later, public records show.
Phoenix lawyer Grant Woods, one of Mr. Renzi's attorneys, said Friday that Mr. Sandlin sent Mr. Renzi the $200,000 to settle a debt stemming from a previous business transaction involving land in northeast Arizona. "The note was due, and he had to pay it off," Mr. Wood said. He said Mr. Renzi was not pushing the sale of the Sandlin property to help his former business partner. "He was working to solve the water problems of the San Pedro River and help save Fort Huachuca," Mr. Woods said. When Mr. Renzi was pressing Resolution and then the Petrified Forest group to buy the land, "he did not know Mr. Sandlin had an interest in that land," Mr. Wood said.
Executives of Resolution and participants in the Petrified Forest group are cooperating with the FBI in its investigation, people close to the case said. The Petrified Forest group is not being investigated for any possible wrongdoing.
The FBI is also looking into the congressman's dealings with Fort Huachuca, these people say.
Mr. Renzi said Friday he would take a leave of absence from the House intelligence committee "until the matter is resolved." John Boehner, the House Republican leader, had warned colleagues in a letter earlier this year that "clear likelihood of serious transgressions will lead to suspension from important committee positions; guilt will lead to immediate and severe consequences," according to Congressional Quarterly.
Mr. Renzi continues to serve on the House Natural Resources Committee, which handles land-swap legislation.
Resolution is pressing ahead with its effort to line up congressional support for a land swap. Bruno Hegner, who was Resolution's president when Mr. Renzi proposed that the company buy the alfalfa field, was so troubled by the incident that he wrote a letter detailing what happened and mailed it to himself, people close to the case said. He wanted a postmarked record of what occurred, these people say. That letter is now in the hands of the FBI, they say.
Arizona tribes unite against mine
East Valley Tribune
June 21, 2007
J. Craig Anderson
American Indians from several Arizona tribes set aside centuries-old differences to speak in unison Wednesday against a plan to mine copper underneath land that San Carlos Apache leaders say has been part of their religious and cultural activities since time immemorial.
But San Carlos tribal council Chairman Wendsler Nosie isn’t expecting unity among the tribes to keep government and copper mining interests at bay. That’s why the tribe has hired a Scottsdale lawyer and plans to fight for the 3,000 acres of Tonto National Forest subject to a proposed federal land exchange with Resolution Copper Mining, the Arizona joint subsidiary of Britain’s Rio Tinto and Australia’s BHP Billiton.
“This has unified the tribes to start defending the land,” Nosie said. “We’re looking forward to the days to come.”
A protest and blessing ceremony on Wednesday at Oak Flat campground near Superior drew about 300 American Indians from six tribes and their supporters — an event that tribal leaders say has not happened in Arizona’s modern history.
The mining company’s plan for Superior involves opening the most productive copper mine in North America and pumping 1.8 billion gallons of treated wastewater from previous mining operations into an irrigation district between Florence and Queen Creek. Culling pure copper from the new mine’s underground ore deposit would require an additional 6.5 billion gallons of water each year.
The proposed mine “is exclusively driven by the need to obtain the greatest profit for its mostly foreign shareholders,” according to a joint resolution addressed to President Bush and signed Wednesday by leaders of the San Carlos Apache, White Mountain Apache, Camp Verde Yavapai Apache, Tonto Apache, Hopi and Hualapai tribes.
The protest is specifically focused on a congressional proposal, HR6373, which would exchange 3,000 acres of national forest for 5,200 acres owned by Resolution Copper. Company President John Rickus has promised to set aside the area’s most significant tribal landmark, a towering escarpment known as Apache Leap, as a conservation area.
Rickus attended Wednesday’s ceremony and invited American Indian leaders to meet with him to discuss their concerns. He has repeatedly stressed his company’s commitment to protecting the local environment and the cultural activities of its residents.
But some protest speakers, such as Hopi Vice Chairman Todd Honyaoma, expressed a deep-seated distrust of white government and industry that transcends any one mining project or congressional action. “My grandfather told me, ‘One of these days … they’re going to come in and take the land,’ ” Honyaoma said. “Very scary, what’s going on.”
Scottsdale attorney Joe Sparks, hired by the San Carlos Apache Tribe to handle land preservation cases, said his clients have several legal avenues at their disposal to fight the proposed land exchange.
“There’s many kinds of actions, and we intend to take ’em all,” Sparks said. “This is the aboriginal territory of the Apaches.”