By: Mila Besich-Lira
During a scheduled appearance at the Cobre Valley Democrats meeting in Globe last night, Resolution Copper, Project Manager Andrew Taplin shared that a new bill to approve the long awaited Southeast Arizona Land Exchange will be introduced into Congress next week. Taplin shared that the bill has received bi-partisan support and will also be introduced into the Senate and the House of Representatives. Once introduced the bill will have to go through Congressional committees and will have to be approved in both the House and Senate before it can be forwarded to the President for final approval.
Taplin explained that Resolution Copper has charted a course to complete the Mine Plan of Operations by June of this year. Once the mine plan of operations is complete this will trigger the start of the National Environmental Protection Act process also known as the NEPA. The start of the NEPA process will mean that the language of the legislation may be different from previous bills because the NEPA will already be in process.
The introduction of the 2013 legislation does not change the current scale-backs that Resolution announced at the end of November. Taplin explained that due to the global economic uncertainty Rio Tinto scaled back many projects world wide that were not delivering profits in short time frames. The Rio Tinto scale backs forced Resolution Copper to decrease their operating budget from $218 Million in 2012 to $50Million in 2013 which forced the lay off of 400 workers at the project.
Taplin explained how the budget cuts will affect the Resolution Copper project. Due to the decreased budget Resolution will be stopping the rehabilitation work of the number nine shaft as well as the drilling and examination of the ore body. The company will complete the construction of the number 10 shaft and is hoping to continue to have one drill operating on property to continue studying the ore body. Once the construction is complete on the number 10 shaft those employees will also be laid off.
Resolution Copper officials will continue to work on the legislative process and regulatory permits through 2013. If progress can be made with the land exchange and the permitting moves quickly Taplin explained they would go to the Rio Tinto board of director to request additional capital funding for the project. That additional funding would allow Resolution to continue the ore body exploration and shaft development which will require more contractor work.
Throughout his presentation Taplin discussed Resolution’s social license to operate, he said working with the stakeholders and community leaders remains important to the company and they will continue to build upon those relationships as well as make new attempts to work with the San Carlos Native American Tribe.
The meeting was well attended by democrats from throughout the area. Those attending were able to ask questions and contribute to the conversation. Several employees who have been laid off from various contractors were present and asked what they can do to help move the legislation forward. Roy Chavez, chairman of the Retired Miners and Concerned Citizens was also present at the meeting. He commented during the discussion that what he had heard at the meeting was different from what he had heard in the past and he felt it was good news.
Mickie Nye, local business owner in Globe and a member of the Cobre Valley Democrats explained that several community members are working on a grass roots effort to help advocate for the Resolution Copper project and other economic development projects for the mining communities.
Following the presentation and discussion the Cobre Valley Democrats passed a resolution of support for the Resolution Copper Project.