A packed Tempe hotel conference room was the site of a Thursday night public hearing on Resolution Copper, a proposed copper mine in northeast Pinal County near Superior, Ariz., that will be the nation’s largest once mining operations begin.
The hearing was the sixth in a series hosted by the Tonto National Forest, providing supporters and opponents of the project an opportunity to comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which assesses various environmental components related to the project in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.
In addition to public hearings, the Forest Service has made resources available online, including environmental documents, informational videos and explanatory fact sheets about the mine’s effect on air quality, public safety and more.
“The U.S. Forest Service deserves tremendous credit for the work they’ve put into this draft EIS,” Arizona Mining Association Executive Director Steve Trussell said during his testimony. “The process has reached unprecedented levels of engagement and transparency. That is a testament to the way this process has been conducted.”
Supporters of the mine touted the responsible manner in which environmental concerns have been addressed as well as the project’s economic benefits.
The DEIS estimates the project will result in 3,700 jobs and approximately $1 billion in economic benefit — an estimate the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry says might be too low.
“We believe that the Forest Service may have underestimated local tax revenues that will be realized through construction activities and new commercial development such as housing, hotels, retail and more, which will occur as a result of the operation,” Chamber spokesman Garrick Taylor said during his testimony.
Southern Arizona Business Coalition Vice President Rick Grinnell testified that the demand for copper is growing, which the Resolution project can help meet.
“Since 1950, the population of the world has gone from a little over 2.5 billion people to over 7.7 billion people— over 3 times,” Grinnell said. “Since 1950, the need of copper has gone up nine times and will continue to do so. We can’t live in a world today without mining.”
Anticipating the need for talented workers once the project comes online, Resolution Copper is partnering with schools in Superior to help prepare students for careers in the mining field and other industries.
“They are funding an incubator and entrepreneurship center in Superior to develop local small business,” Trussell said. “They have provided $1.2 million to the Superior School District and will modernize classrooms and enhance curriculum.”
The Resolution project was made possible by a federal land exchange under the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, one of 80 land exchanges included in the bill. The project received bipartisan support from the Arizona congressional delegation at the time of the bill’s passage.
Public comments on the DEIS will be accepted until Nov. 7.