By Chase Kamp Copper Area News
Superior-based Resolution Copper has placed its hopes in a federal land exchange bill that would allow mining operations begin on copper-rich federal lands. There have been ten different permutations of the bill in the last six years.
The current Congressional candidates representing the region have differing opinions on the current bill, which is awaiting review from the Senate.
The Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act, or H.R. 1904, was introduced by then District 4 Representative Paul Gosar. The bill is an agreement between the federal government and Resolution Copper that would facilitate the company’s mining efforts just outside the town of Superior in the former Magma copper mine.
In Oct. 2011, the U.S. House passed the measure mostly along party lines.
The bill states that Resolution Copper will receive 2,422 acres of the Oak Flat federal land parcel in Pinal County. The federal government will receive 5,344 acres of land from eight various parcels around Arizona, notably those in the Lower San Pedro River and Apache Leap South areas of Pinal County.
A provision in the bill requires the government to consult with the Yavapai and Apache Indian tribes regarding a management plan for Apache Leap, but the exchange can go forward before consultations with tribes begin.
According to Resolution Copper, the copper mine project is expected to create over 3,700 direct and indirect jobs at the mine site. The company has invested more than $750 million in the process since beginning work on the exchange in 2005.
Opponents of the bill, such as Representative Raul Grijalva (D-Tucson), argued the job figures were overblown and sought more environmental oversight.
Current CD-1 Democratic candidate Ann Kirkpatrick introduced a bill of her own two years ago that included provisions sought by Senate Democrats.
“Mr. Gosar’s legislation differs from mine by eliminating the NEPA environmental impact study and government-to-government tribal consultations prior to the land exchange,” Kirkpatrick said in a statement.
Like Democratic amendments to the Gosar bill, it did not pass the House.
Her Republican opponent, Jonathan Paton, has come out in support of the Gosar bill, according to campaign representative Barrett Marson.
“Paton supports Rep. Gosar’s efforts to push that through,” he said. “Jobs is the number one issue in this election.”
Marson said Paton would introduce a new bill if Gosar does not win re-election against Democratic challenger Mikel Weisser this Nov.
“If Gosar is not re-elected, then he will pick up the mantle and run with it,” he said.
Republican Senate candidate Jeff Flake co-signed the legislation when he was a member of the House and has toured the Resolution facilities.
Democratic Senate candidate Richard Carmona’s campaign did not respond to queries regarding his stance on the land exchange by press time. Flake’s opponent and the former U.S. Surgeon General has not made public statements regarding the project.
However, groups affiliated with the Democratic Party have criticized Flake for his past work as a mining lobbyist.
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