In 1993, ASARCO filed an application to exchange lands with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The application would allow for ASARCO to obtain 10,975 BLM acres within the Copper Corridor and in exchange ASARCO would offer 7,304 acres of environmentally sensitive areas that are adjacent to Wilderness Areas. The approval of the land exchange will allow for ASARCO to continue to grow their operations.
In 2000, the BLM issued a Record of Decision which approved the land exchange. The process involved a lengthy permitting and public participation process prior to the issuing of a Record of Decision. In 2000, the Center for Biological Diversity challenged the approval by the BLM, but the challenge was denied.
In 2010, the Centers for Biological Diversity appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court and they were issued a judgment in their favor regarding one narrow issue. The Ninth Circuit Court contended that “BLM failed to compare the environmental consequences of ASARCO’s potential future mining operations on Selected Lands “with” and “without” BLM oversight under BLM’s surface management regulations 43 CFR.” BLM then determined that it would prepare a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that would include the with and without analysis. This supplemental EIS was completed in 2015.
The outreach and education process is part of the required permitting process. Currently ASARCO is waiting for the application to be allowed to be published in the Federal Register. Once the application is listed in the Federal Register, it can be opened up to public comments. There will be a 90-day public comment period on the land exchange once it has been approved for publishing in the Federal Register.
ASARCO continues to work with the BLM to have this application approved for the Federal Register. Recently ASARCO attended the council meetings in Hayden, Kearny and Winkelman to provide this update to community leaders.