Ted Simons: Not everyone in Superior is supporting a land swap needed for the construction of a large copper mine in the area. Former Superior Mayor Roy Chavez and Superior Councilmember Soyla "Kiki" Peralta are with us tonight. Both recently expressed their opposition to the deal in testimony before Congress. Good to have you here, thank you for joining us. We had Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick on last time. But first, why are you opposed to this legislation?
Roy Chavez: For several years the mine has attempted to introduce this legislation in regards to the land exchange. Our concerns for the past several years has been in reference to the environmental concerns, water usage, socioeconomic conditions. There's not even a mining plan of operation.
Ted Simons: The environmental studies, are they still not going on?
Roy Chavez: I share with you that when I was Mayor in 1998 , the companies came to Superior and we had discussions about the project, the new project. At that time I was assuming that they would reopen the mine with the old method of mining. I was not clear as to what the exchange was involving. They explained they would do a blockade process. With that, the exchange parcels also, I thought at the time, would include some property for superior. We are landlocked, four or five square miles around Forest Service land. The environmental issues were discussed but I discovered the process should be in place prior to the exchange.
Ted Simons: Correct me if I'm wrong, but this bill can go on without full environmental studies?
Kiki Peralta: That is my understanding. But according to the bill, they have got up to I believe three years to do them.
Ted Simons: Yes.
Kiki Peralta: And we want them to be done prior because we want to know what kind of negative impact it's going take on our environment, our town and our water. And on the general area itself.
Ted Simons: We had Congresswoman Kirkpatrick, as I mentioned, on last week. I want you to listen to what she had to say regarding that this is, as she sees it, a great opportunity for Arizona and your region.
SOT: We believe that the indirect and direct jobs it'll create is 3,700. The financial impact to the state of Arizona is in the billions of dollare. It is one of the richest copper ore bodies in North America, maybe in the world. We have a great opportunity, not just for the district but for all of Arizona.
Ted Simons: Is that an opportunity that Superior can afford to say no to?
Roy Chavez: I share with you, Ted, those are numbers provided by the company. I worked the Magma Mine from 1993 to 1996 when we closed. The company closed 1982 with 1300 employees laid off in one day. They reopened in ,’89 with approximately 400. There were some changes made in the underground operation and that was obvious. Also as mayor then, not only did I realize the lack of workforce that was employed at the company, we saw a decrease in our population. More and more the workers that were hired chose not to live in superior. The only taxable income we received was employment taxes. When the proposal was suggested that they were going operate this new mine, and it was going to be based on robotics and technology and research and development for new operations, I started to think, this could mean even less employees in regards to the actual production process. I also questioned the definition of direct and indirect jobs.
Ted Simons: Are you questioning these things -- because even if the numbers are off, we'll say they are off any percentage point you want, they are still jobs and happening in Arizona and there could still be impact to Superior. Valid?
Kiki Peralta: Valid, yes. There will be a few jobs for Superior.
Ted Simons: Worth it?
Kiki Peralta: In my opinion?
Ted Simons: Yes.
Kiki Peralta: Not at the cost of -- not at the cost of our environment.
Ted Simons: Is the environment the major sticking point for you?
Kiki Peralta: The major sticking point is the fact that they don't want to do the studies prior to the land swap. We want to know what's going to happen before. We don't want projections or what they think is going to happen. We'd like to see the studies done prior so that we know.
Ted Simons: Is that a similar concern for you?
Roy Chavez: Very much so. There's also other issues in regard to the process that need to be addressed. Socioeconomic is a big point here, let's not forget Rio Tito is owned by 9% by China. The commodity is open to the free world market. Whoever can buy it will take it. I believe there are some serious issues with Native American rights and freedom.
Ted Simons: Here's what she said about sacred tribal areas.
SOT: There are sacred tribal areas for the Apache, and I understand that, having grown up on tribal land myself, that is part of their spirituality and culture and very respectful of that. On the other hand, this is the copper corridor. I have to represent all my constituents. The folks in that area are miners. They have been for generations and generations and they want this to happen.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about this, the fact that miners and folks in your town and area want this to happen.
Roy Chavez: I believe that is true, that's a true statement. We are in the copper corridor. However, this is a new mine. A new operation. I do not believe the general public and in the community and region actually realize the impact that this operation is taking on. Without a mining plan of operation, Ted, we've asked simple questions. How is the ore going to be extracted. Where is the ore going to be processed, crushed, milled. Right now there's an issue going on in regards to the waste disposal of the byproduct. We have negotiated with the State land department with regards to the acquisition of land at the base of Dromedary Pass. 12 square miles is three, four times the size of our community. We're talking about a tailings site that is still undefined.
Ted Simons: With all that in mind, we will hear from the other side in a couple of days here. They say you are simply opposed to mining there.
Kiki Peralta: Not true. We're not opposed to mining. It's a mining community. And basically, you know, my dad was a miner, my husband was a miner. I worked for Magma Copper Company. I was the first female laborer to be hired in . I'm not against mining. I am against them circumventing the law to get this land swap. There's a process that needs to be followed and they are not doing it.
Ted Simons: If the process is as it is, but the mine can't be built without those NEPA studies and environmental studies, is it still the same in the wash? Still the same thing?
Kiki Peralta: What do you mean?
Ted Simons: If the fact is the mine won't get built without the proper studies, that is not an environmental concern that has been answered?
Kiki Peralta: Yes.
Ted Simons: You think it would be answered?
Kiki Peralta: Well, if they do it prior.
Ted Simons: Okay.
Kiki Peralta: If they do it prior.
Roy Chavez: That's the catch-22 here, Ted. Under the NEPA process our government officials are supposed to take a look at those documents and studies and make a solid determine nation if the public land is being used in the best public interest. Obviously, the economic concerns in our region lend themselves to this project. But conveyance of the land and privatizing this public land prior to the NEPA studies, makes it studies potentially mute.
Ted Simons: One last point, again, from Congresswoman Kirkpatrick's show last week. She did say she did talk to residents here and they seem to want it. One more time, Congresswoman Kirkpatrick.
SOT: They have been miners for generations and they want the jobs. What I'm striving for, Ted, is a diversified stable economy in Arizona. That means mining is a part of that. We have ranching, farming. We have bio tech in Oro Valley. We've got some great opportunities. This is one of those. It is a very diverse district, a very diverse state. But the folks in that area are miners and these are the jobs that they want. We've got this opportunity with this very, very rich copper ore body.
Ted Simons: Bottom line, is it better to superior to do nothing than to go ahead and pursue this operation?
Roy Chavez: I agree with Representative Kirkpatrick. We're in a very diversified form of economies right now and we're challenged with addressing those issues. That’s possibly the issue in Superior. We need to diversify our economy. We need to look at other forms of economic development within the community and in the surrounding region. Going back to the mine is possibly the reason why we're in the condition we're in on that one horse. I would share with you that we do need to look at diversified economies. This particular project as it stands today, Ted, leaves too many open questions.
Ted Simons: Last question for you, again Better to do nothing or pursue this operation?
Kiki Peralta: At this point, I think it would be better to do nothing until we can assure the safety of our community, at this point I think nothing is better.
Ted Simons: I want to thank you both for coming down and appearing on "Horizon" tonight.
Roy Chavez: Thank you, Ted.
Ted Simons: That is it for now. Thank you so feature of joining us, you have a great evening.