Resolution Copper will submit mine plans while it waits for word on land swap
Resolution Copper Co. will submit a plan to the U.S. Forest Service detailing how it plans to operate its proposed copper mine near Superior, AZ.
The mine would be the largest copper mine in North America. The plans are part of the lengthy environmental review of the mine by the federal government. They will include information on how the company plans to mine the copper ore, dispose of tailings and other waste, and bring water to the site, USA Today reported.
"This is a key milestone in bringing the mine to fruition in an open and transparent way," said Vicky Peacey, senior manager of environmental and external affairs for Resolution Copper. "It's a rigorous process, and we're committed to seeing it through."
The Forest Service review of the mine plan of operation is expected to take about six to nine months, Peacey said. Agency officials will determine whether they believe the plan is complete or needs to be amended.
After that, the mine must go through a longer environmental review process required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). That process, which involves numerous federal agencies, will take about four years more and include the creation of a detailed environmental impact statement, Peacey said. Public meetings and a public comment period are required along the way.
The environmental reviews come as the company awaits word from Congress about its proposed land swap for federal lands that would facilitate the mine's development.
The House could take up the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act as early as this week.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), had been scheduled for a vote in late September but was pulled from the calendar as Congress became distracted by the fight over shutting down the federal government, USA Today reported.
If the bill is approved by both chambers of Congress, Resolution Copper would get about 2,400 acres in the Oak Flat area of the Tonto National Forest in return for giving more than 5,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land throughout Arizona to the federal government.
Resolution Copper has been seeking the federal land exchange since 2005. Eleven versions of a land-exchange bill have been introduced in Congress. In 2011, the House approved a different version of Gosar's bill, but the legislation never came to a vote in the Senate.
The timing of the NEPA review and whether it should be done before or after a land swap bill is approved by Congress has been a key point of contention among lawmakers.