Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Foreign investment in Western US resources

Opponents of the Rosemont copper mine south of Tucson, point to the Canadian home of the company's parent, Augusta Resources, as rationale for halting the mine. Yet, the State of Arizona has trade offices in not only Canada, but Mexico, Europe, and China, in hopes of luring foreign investments in Arizona and purchase of Arizona exports.

The debate over foreign investment in the U.S. is ratcheting up across the Western U.S. A series of recent articles and reports look warily at global investments in natural resources in Arizona and other western states.

High Country News last week ran a feature story on how "China's insatiable energy appetite is fueling a natural resource boom in the West" [subscription required].

Stanford University's Rural West Initiative, Bill Lane Center for the American West, has a report on "Fossil Fuels, Foreign Trade, and Foreign Investment in the American West" that concludes that "The biggest foreign influence on fossil fuel production comes from rising worldwide consumption of fossil fuels, and that is largely driven by growth in Asian economies. However, the main driver of demand for fossil fuels from the American West continues to overwhelmingly come from domestic consumption in the United States. The American West is indeed a “carbon colony.” But it is our carbon colony."

Another report on the Stanford site, provides an interactive map [right] with foreign-owned energy and mineral resource operations shown for western states.

Interestingly, the map and the reports largely ignore foreign investments or ownership of large renewable energy projects such as Spanish company Abengoa's construction of potentially the world's largest solar energy plant on 1,900 acres west of Phoenix, using $1.45 billion in U.S. government loan guarantees.

So, the issue may not be foreign investments per se, but what those monies are funding, that really matters.


  1. Anonymous8:36 AM

    You and I both know that the issue is not foreign ownership - at least by Canadian entities - but the issue becomes just another arrow in the quiver of those who want no resource development at all.

    I've wrestled with this question and this issue with audiences of my various talks. I point out to them that the jobs are American, the taxes generated (including severance taxes) are American and anecdotally, probably the majority of shareholders of these Canadian companies are American.

    Right now Vancouver is the nexus of the mining industry in the world. Everybody who is anybody has a presence in Vancouver. (Secondary are Reno and Toronto.) I know of several companies founded and run by Americans whose HQ is in Vancouver. They live in Denver and Reno. This is, of course, a red herring all the way.

  2. Anonymous12:58 PM

    As for Rosemont Mine, the fact that the company is Canadian is not the most important issue. Rather, the fact that this company plans to mine for copper on their private land while using our public Coronado National Forest land for a dumping ground for all their waste rock and tailings, thus destroying 3500 acres of recreational land in a beautiful area, is the issue. Also at issue is the fact that while destroying this public land, the ore mined would mostly be for Asian consumption. Also the mine would haul all supplies and all ore on a narrow scenic highway whereas most mines use rail lines for such haulage. Surrounding communities using this road (highway #83 ) have no other alternative highway and would be at great risk sharing the curvy narrow highway with all mine related vehicles, many 24 ton trucks . But the most important issue is water. The water Rosemont would take by pit dewatering from local aquifers would never be replaced. The mine is also in a watershed that provides 20% of Tucson water and risks being polluted as well as depleted over the life of the mine. The deposit is low quality which is the reason there will be three miles of tailings and waste rock piles and a pit up to 2900 feet deep and 1 1/2 miles across. It's not wanted or needed as other mines are increasing production and have higher quality of deposits than Rosemont. Canadian mining companies seek to exploit the western US using the antiquated 1872 Hardrock Mining Law to destroy our public lands for their profit. We will not allow this beautiful region of Arizona to be destroyed by a Canadian company that has never operated a mine and expects residents to believe that this mine in our midst will not even be seen and will be environmentally perfect in every way. It's simply hogwash!

  3. Beaux Talks11:41 PM

    Anonymous #2,

    Somehow I get the feeling that you would be opposed to everyone who wanted to mine that ore deposit. Also, I'd be quite surprised if you had ever set foot in the "3500 acres of recreational land in a beautiful area."

    You begin by saying that "the fact that the company is Canadian is not the most important issue." Then you conclude by ranting about Canadian mining companies that "seek to exploit the western US using the 1872 Hardrock Mining Law to destroy our public lands for their profit."

    You express concern that "the ore mined would mostly be for Asian consumption."

    Why do you suppose Rosemont wants to open the mine if, as you say, it is "not wanted or needed?" The answer is that there's world-wide demand for copper that's created by all of us who use it, including you. Rosemont is willing to raise the money, follow all the necessary regulations, and take the risk needed to mine this exceptional ore deposit - with the expectation of making a profit for its shareholders.

    From the tone of your response, it seems obvious to me that you are just another anti-mining hypocrite or a NIMBY, or both. Every day you depend on copper and other metals and nonmetals that are mined, but you apparently don't want them to be mined here in Arizona, where mining is strictly regulated. It's apparently okay to mine in other countries, most of which have less stringent laws to protect the environment. You buy products that are made in China or other foreign countries, but you don't want Arizona copper to be consumed by Asians.

    Does it concern you when a Spanish company wants to construct a 1900-acre solar farm west of Phoenix? How about when a Dutch company builds a large greenhouse in Cochise County and sells tomatoes and cucumbers in local grocery stores? How about when a Japanese company comes to the US to build Toyotas? People from many countries have come to the US to successfully construct and operate a variety of businesses. In so doing they are required to follow all of our laws and regulations, they employ US citizens, and they pay taxes.

    If it bothers you that Canadian companies come down here to mine, do you feel the same way about US companies going up there or to other countries to mine?

    Mining, one of the most regulated industries in the US, obviously has environmental trade-offs. But so do agriculture and urban development, which require far more land than mining. We readily accept that we need to eat and build houses, businesses, roads, etc. Somehow there's a disconnect in realizing that metals and nonmetals are essential for both agriculture and urban development.

    For your information, I'm not a miner, have never worked for a mining company, don't know anyone who works for Rosemont, and am not a Rosemont stockholder. I'm just a concerned US citizen who believes that we should use our own mineral resources, in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations to protect the environment, including those pertaining to reclamation. I believe that mining jobs are good for our economy and that taxes generated by mining are important for state and local governments. Every day I use products that contain copper and other metals. It would be extremely difficult to do without them.

  4. Anonymous5:09 PM

    History tell us that the real risk will be beared by taxpayers who will be stuck with the massive environmental clean-up bill,local residents who must drive highway 83 dodging 24 ton trucks hauling acid and other toxic materials,local businesses that depend on highway 83 for tourism to survive, wildlife that will die or be driven from the area, individuals in Tucson and surrounding areas dependent on a quality & sufficient water supply, and local homeowners whose property values will plummet.

    The only risk that Rosemont takes is when investors dump their stock and warrants
    seeking solid companies with proven track records
    of growth and profitability.

  5. The Rosemont situation and others in Arizona (Superior, Patgonia)are not issues of foreign companies providing investments. It's a matter of them using U.S. Public lands without paying for it to destroy for the sake of profits. Supposedly, their minerals were to be on private land (Rosemont Ranch), but when I look at the maps, Rosemont Ranch is going under the waste piles and tailings and they will be using "patented claims" to extract the copper. I hope Lee clarifies this.
    As far as the jobs--it's just smoke and mirrors. I have been tracking mining jobs for months--on any given day there are at least 100 mining jobs in Arizona--and many more in New Mexico. In a recent presentation the head of the U of A Mining Department stated that there were not qualified people in Arizona for the technical jobs that mining now requires.
    Lee has been a reliable source of information. I do home that the merging of the Arizona Dept of Mines with Arizona Geological has not changed his commitment to thorough, logical analysis.

  6. Kwaayesnama8:19 PM

    My argument is not foreign companies profiting from mining in our state, my concern is environmental. Do these companies provide a sufficient bond for damage that might be done to the environment and people’s lives? Have we learned nothing from the BP disaster?
    We all know about the companies that polluted the Hopi and Navajo reservation with uranium and we are still living with that nightmare. Today the US government (tax payers) is spending millions of dollars each year trying monitor and to clean up uranium contamination. Last week Navajo Hopi Observer’s front page article was about more wells being caped because of uranium and arsenic contamination. Living on the Hopi Indian Reservation I know many families who have been impacted by uranium poisoning.
    Have you ever seen a flash flood on a reservation I would be happy to send you photos of the one that went through Keams Canyon last year. I have nightmares thinking about the environmental damage that would be done if uranium tailings flowed into the Colorado River. There were a few thousand people on the reservations that have died or suffered from uranium poisoning. If the Colorado River became poisoned the end result would be genocide against millions of people in 3 states.
    Also what controls does Arizona have over where our uranium is sold after it leaves our state?
    This is a Pandora’s Box I do not wish to see opened.