Proposed land swap for Resolution Copper mine topic of June 9 meeting

No. 6 on the map is where a proposed filter plant between San Tan Valley and Florence Junction where water will be removed from the copper ore. (Special to the Independent/National Forest Service)

No. 6 on the map is where a proposed filter plant between San Tan Valley and Florence Junction where water will be removed from the copper ore. (Special to the Independent/National Forest Service)

 

Queen Creek and San Tan Valley residents can weigh in this week on a proposed land swap of 5,344 acres of privately held land for 2,422 acres of federal land for a Resolution Copper mine.

A public scoping meeting will be held 5-8 p.m. June 9 at the Central Arizona College San Tan Campus, 3736 E. Bella Vista Road in San Tan Valley. A presentation begins at 5:30 p.m., according to a press release.

“Tonto National Forest officials have extended the public scoping period for the proposed Resolution Copper mine and associated land exchange environmental impact statement,” Carrie Templin, Tonto National Forest spokeswoman, said in the release. “The EIS will analyze the environmental effects of a mining proposal submitted to the Tonto National Forest by Resolution Copper Mining LLC; the exchange of 2,422 acres of federal land near Oak Flat for 5,344 acres of privately held land elsewhere in Arizona; and any necessary amendments to the Tonto National Forest land and resource management plan.”

The mine is to be constructed on Tonto National Forest, private and state lands near Superior. The Tonto National Forest initiated the environmental impact statement to comply with Section 3003 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 and Forest Service regulations. The notice of intent to prepare an EIS was published on March 18, 2016, with a 60-day public scoping period listed. At the request of numerous individuals and organizations, National Forest officials have extended the public scoping period through July 18, according to the press release.
The public is invited to submit written comments through July 18 to: Resolution EIS Comments, P.O. Box 34468, Phoenix, AZ 85067-4468; via e-mail to: Comments@resolutionmineeis.us; submitted via the website at www.resolutionmineeis.us; or by sending a facsimile or leaving a voice-mail message at 1-866-546-5718.

Discussion with city council

Jim Schenck, community and social performance manager for Resolution Copper, spoke about the project at the May 16 Apache Junction City Council study session.

“We plan to be one of the largest copper producers in North America. Basically we’ll be doing about 25 percent of the U.S. consumption of copper. We’ll be doing that for somewhere between 40 and 60 years and possibly longer,” he said. “We’re talking about $61 billion of revenue.”

A 6,943-foot lift shaft has been dug at the site of the proposed underground mine. Construction could begin in five to six years, he said, adding that about 3,000 people would be employed in that phase of the project, for about two to three years.
“For the 40- to 60-year mine life, we’re talking about 1,400 direct jobs,” Mr. Schenck said to the council.

Forest Service officials set up a San Tan Valley scoping meeting because Resolution Copper will have a nearby facility, he said.
“That’s because the project design calls for a filter plant where you load the ore onto rail cars after you’ve taken the water out of it and so they want to have one there,” he said to the council.

Once processed, copper concentrate would be pumped as a slurry about 22 miles to a filter/loadout  facility. The slurry pipelines follow an existing right-of-way known as the Magma Arizona Railroad Co. corridor. The filter plant would be constructed between San Tan Valley and Florence Junction, according to a map at www.resolutionmineeis.us.

Mr. Schenck said the scoping period is important.

“This period of scoping is very important and it’s not a ‘do you want the mine?’ or ‘don’t you want the mine?’ It’s the Forest Service trying to figure out ‘what kinds of things does the public want to know?’” he said.

Vice Mayor Robin Barker asked if when the mine is closed the area would be available for use by the public.

“Is the mining company planning or planning on planning some kind of passive use for that rather than just a huge gorge in the middle of the desert?” she asked.

Mr. Schenck said the copper ore starts at 5,000 feet below ground and goes to 7,000 feet and with the proposed block-cave mining, it will not be an open pit.

“So you are basically going underneath the ore body, you’re bringing … down 2,000 feet of ore, you’re going to have subsidence,” he said. “It’s not like just one big hole but it’s irregular because the surface is irregular. People have talked about different kinds of things, like ‘could you out a lake there?’ (and) ‘what kinds of things can you do?’ At this point, we don’t really see that there’s much that you could change with it,” he said.

“That area right above where the ore body is will be lost to recreation use,” Mr. Schenck said.

Editor Richard Dyer can be contacted via e-mail at rdyer@newszap.com or at twitter.com/rhdyer or facebook.com/RichardDyerJournalist

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