By Mila Besich-Lira
On Feb. 14, LD-1Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) and LD-4 Rep. Paul Gosar (R) introduced the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act, H.R. 687. The bill would provide Resolution Copper the land that the company needs to further develop the mine while protecting over 5000 acres of high value conservations lands in Arizona.
It is expected that Senators McCain and Kyle will also introduce the bill into the Senate.
Arizona House Members Matt Salmon (R, LD-5), David Schweikert (R, LD-6), and Trent Franks (R, LD-8) all supported the legislation as original co-sponsors. The four other democratic members of the Arizona Congressional delegation have not signed on to the bill at this time.
The Resolution Copper Mine near Superior, Ariz., is one of the largest known undeveloped copper deposits in the world.
The proposed land exchange would consolidate Resolution’s ownership of the land where the mine will be developed and operate. In return, Resolution Copper would place high-quality conservation lands in Arizona currently owned by the company back into the public trust.
Kirkpatrick said her vision for Arizona is a diversified and stable economy, arguing the Superior mine fits into that vision and is critical to the communities and constituents in her district.
“It will provide jobs, economic development and a stronger foundation for their future,” Kirkpatrick said. “I am committed to using the legislative process to advance this project and represent outstanding concerns, and I look forward to working with Congressman Gosar and the Arizona delegation to ensure the Superior Mine finally moves forward.”
Gosar argued the project would create over 3,700 high-paying jobs, increase U.S. energy and mineral independence, and preserve some of rural Arizona’s most beautiful natural lands.
“Even though this common sense proposal has overwhelming bipartisan support across our state, it has been held up for years by trivial political bickering in Washington,” he said. “Those needless delays have cost hundreds of rural Arizonans their jobs.”
The most recent version of the bill, introduced by Gosar last year, was defeated in the Senate before the holiday recess at the end of the 2012 session.
“Congresswoman Kirkpatrick and I will build on last year’s successes in the House, work closely with Senators Flake and McCain in the Senate, and finally get this land exchange across the finish line,” Gosar said.
Bruce Richardson, spokesperson for Resolution Copper, said the project would equally benefit his company and the public.
“These conservation lands were hand-picked with the help of conservation groups and federal and state agencies,” Richardson said. “This includes lands that would become part of the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area and the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.”
The Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation act has been introduced into Congress ten times over the past eight years. Both Kirkpatrick and Gosar introduced land exchange bills during their previous terms in Congress.
The project and the exchange continue to be opposed by the San Carlos Apache Tribe and several environmental groups. Kirkpatrick said these groups should be part of the discussion.
“I believe their voices should be heard during this process,” she said.