Senate expected to vote on mine land swap bill soon
A vote by the U.S. Senate on the legislation that could pave the way for the construction of Resolution Copper’s mine near Superior, AZ could come as soon as Dec. 10, Tucson.com reported.
The legislation that would give 2,400 acres of national forest to Resolution Copper in a land swap was tacked on to the National Defense Authorization Act.
The land-swap legislation has repeatedly failed to pass both houses of Congress since it was first introduced in 2005. It was inserted into the defense spending bill at the behest of Sen. John McCain (R, AZ) — who has been pushing for the land swap since 2005 — as well as House supporters Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D, AZ).
“This is not unusual,” Gosar said. The bill is not completely unrelated to the defense bill, he said, because “critical mineral access” is in the best interest of the military.
Resolution Copper, jointly owned by U.K.-based Rio Tinto Group and Australia-based BHP Billiton Ltd., wants access to a massive copper deposit 7,000 feet beneath the land parcel, just east of Superior. The mine would generate enough copper to meet 25 percent of U.S. demand.
The bill easily passed the House but may face roadblocks in the Senate.
Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK), and Ted Cruz (R, TX), are opposed to the package of public-lands bills added to the defense act, including the land-swap bill and provisions to expand wilderness areas and streamline oil and gas permits, The Associated Press reported.
Coburn said in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that he would “utilize all procedural options at my disposal as a United States senator” to block the quick passage of the bill.
The town of Superior is on the verge of bankruptcy and has been economically devastated since its Magma Mine closed in the 1980s. Many residents say the town is in desperate need of the jobs a new mine could provide.
The mine would generate $61 billion over its lifetime and bring 1,400 direct jobs to the area.