Saturday, May 11, 2013

Resolution Copper project could go forward without Congressional action on land exchange

Resolution Copper is facing a raft of challenges in its goal to develop one of the world's largest copper mines outside Superior, Arizona, but may go ahead with the project even if the controversial federal land exchange is not approved by Congress. 

 Parent company Rio Tinto cut the project budget substantially last year as part of a global belt-tightening and lack of progress in the land exchange the company wants to ensure the can go forward.   Resolution's other parent, BHP, just sold the Pinto Valley mine which had been the presumed site for the millsite and tailings.    Public support in the Superior area is waning as a result of these actions so Resolution staff are out on the road telling their story and answering questions.    Even so, polls show an 85% favorability in the greater Superior area.   [Right, head frame for shaft #10.  Credit, Nyal Niemuth, AZGS]

Vicky Peacey, senior manager of environmental and external affairs for Resolution provided an update to a crowd of about 150 yesterday in Tucson at the monthly Arizona Mining Alliance meeting.   She explained that regardless of the land ownership status the mine proposal would have to do National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) studies on the full project and environmental impacts.  She also indicated the possibility that the project could go forward without the federal land exchange, although that is not their preferred route. Vicki noted that many mines are developed on federal lands but doing so would mean a large reduction in economic benefits to local and state governments.

The permitting process is expected to take the rest of the decade with first mining projected in 2020.   The company has invested about $1 billion so far, and expects to eventually spend $6 billion getting the project ready for production.   The mine should produce 1 billion pounds of copper per year making it one of the top 5 in the world.  

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