On February 14, a bipartisan group of Arizona House and Senate lawmakers reintroduced legislation to make way for Resolution Copper Mining — a joint venture between Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton — to swap more than 2,000 acres of federal forestland for more than 5,000 of its own acres. Mining company executives say the site near Superior, AZ, could provide 25 percent of the U.S. copper needs.
Arizona Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) and Paul Gosar (R) joined other GOP members from the state in introducing H.R. 687, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act, which has for years failed to make it through Congress. In the Senate, Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and newly elected member Jeff Flake are backing the legislation, as they have in previous years.
Opponents, particularly Arizona Democrats like Rep. Raul Grijalva, have questioned the company's job creation claims and the deal's environmental benefits. They also oppose a congressionally mandated swap, instead backing environmental reviews before any land deal can take place.
While legislation supporting the land swap, H.R. 1904, passed the House in 2011, the measure languished in the Senate. Last year, the company said it was forced to announce layoffs.