Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 26, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Copper Mine Land Exchange


  • The Resolution Copper Mining company is asking Congress to approve a federal land swap that will allow the company to begin mining a huge body of copper ore near Superior, Arizona. The project could provide a huge economic boost to a community, but it may also have some negative impacts. Join us as we travel to Superior to hear from both critics and supporters of the project.
Keywords: federalland swap, superior, arizona, copper ore,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: A REASON FOR A VISIT WAS TO LOOK OVER A SITE OF A PROPOSED COPPER MINE THAT COULD BECOME THE NATION'S LARGEST COPPER PRODUCER. AS PRODUCER DAVID MAJURE AND SCOT OLSON SHOW US, BEFORE MINING CAN TAKE PLACE ON THE SITE, A CONTROVERSIAL LAND SWAP HAS TO HAPPEN.

David Majure: COPPER MINING MADE THIS TOWN, RAISED IT UP AND BROUGHT IT CRASHING DOWN.

Roy Chavez: YEAH, UP AND DOWN. IN THE BEGINNING STAGES, IT WAS BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.

David Majure: ROY CHAVEZ GREW UP IN SUPERIOR, SERVED AS THE TOWN'S MAYOR. HE WATCHED THIS BOOMTOWN GO BUST.

Roy Chavez: A LOT OF THESE BUILDINGS YOU SEE HERE WERE ORIGINALLY OWNED BY FAMILIES.

David Majure: IT NEVER FULLY RECOVERED AFTER THE MAGMA COPPER MINE CLOSED IN 1996 AND IT SHOWS.

Roy Chavez: IT'S OVER 100 YEARS OF THE INDUSTRY IN THE AREA, GOOD AND BAD, BOOM AND BUST. YOU LIVE BY THE SOOT, YOU DIE BY THE SOOT.

David Majure: THE PROSPECT OF NEW FORTUNE IS ON THE HURRICANE NORBERT. THE RESOLUTION COPPER COMPANY HAS -- THE PROSPECT OF NEW FORTUNE IS ON THE HORIZON.

Tom Goodell: THIS IS A WORLD CLASS ORE BODY. IT'S UNUSUAL TO FIND THIS MUCH COPPER IN ONE SPOT.

David Majure: THE COMPANY SAYS THERE'S ENOUGH TO PLUS 20% OF OUR NATION'S COPPER DEMAND FOR THE NEXT 50 YEARS. GETTING TO IT WON'T BE EASY. IT'S OVER A MILE UNDERGROUND.

David Salisbury: THIS IS FOR THE NEW SHAFT. IT'S DESIGNED TO GO 7,000 FEET DEEP. IT WILL BE 28 FEET FINISHED DIAMETER. A SHAFT OF THIS SIZE OF THIS DEPTH HAS NEVER BEEN DONE IN THE UNITED STATES. YOU KNOW, WE'RE REALLY TALKING THE SUPER BOWL OF MINING PROJECTS HERE.

David Majure: TO GET IN THE GAME, THE COMPANY SAYS IT NEEDS ABOUT 2400 ACRES OF FEDERAL FOREST SERVICE LAND JUST EAST OF THIS LOCATION. MORE THAN 700 ACRES OF IT WAS WITHDRAWN FROM MINING BY PRESIDENTIAL ORDER IN 1955 INCLUDING THE OAK FLAT CAMPGROUND, SANDY BAHR OF THE SIERRA CLUB WOULD LIKE TO KEEP IT THAT WAY.

Sandy Bahr: WE THINK OAK FLAT IS SPECIAL.

David Majure: IT'S A POPULAR PLACE FOR ROCK CLIMBING AND NATIVE AMERICANS SAY THEY HAVE SPIRITUAL TIES TO THE LAND.

Sandy Bahr: THERE ARE A LOT OF OLD OAK TREES HERE AND THAT PROVIDE SHADE AND A NICE PLACE FOR PEOPLE TO CAMP AND PICNIC. IT'S JUST TO THE EAST OF SUPERIOR, AND IT'S BEEN A CAMPGROUND FOR A LONG TIME AND PROTECTED FROM MINING ACTIVITIES FOR A LONG TIME.

David Salisbury: IF WE LOOK OVER THIS WAY, THIS IS WHERE THE OAK FLAT CAMPGROUND IS HERE. AND THEN IF WE PAN BACK OVER TO THIS DIRECTION, THE ACTUAL ORE BODY WE'RE LOOKING AT IS OVER IN THIS DIRECTION. IT COVERS ABOUT A SQUARE MILE.

David Majure: RESOLUTION COPPER IS ASKING CONGRESS TO APPROVE A LAND EXCHANGE. IT WANTS OWNERSHIP OF OAK FLAT AND THE RIGHT TO MINE THERE. IN RETURN, IT WILL GIVE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT 5500 ACRES OF IMPORTANT LANDS FOR CONSERVATION, BUT CRITICS SAY IT'S NOT CLEAR IF THE PUBLIC IS GETTING A GOOD DEAL OR HOW THE MINING OPERATION WILL IMPACT THE ENVIRONMENT.

Sandy Bahr: HOW DO YOU MAKE A GOOD DECISION WITHOUT GOOD INFORMATION?

David Majure: BAHR SAYS BY GOING TO CONGRESS THE COMPANY IS CIRCUMVENTING THE NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECT ACT. IT'S A PROCESS TRIGGERED BY MAJOR FEDERAL ACTIONS THAT IMPACT THE ENVIRONMENT.

Sandy Bahr: IT SAYS WE ARE GOING TO LOOK AT THIS ISSUE. WE'RE GOING TO LOOK AT ALTERNATIVES. WE'RE GOING TO LOOK AT THE IMPACTS. WE'RE GOING TO BE UP FRONT WITH THE PUBLIC ABOUT WHAT THEY ARE. WE'RE GOING TO PROVIDE THE PUBLIC AN OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT AND TO ASK FOR CHANGES.

David Salisbury: WELL, WE'VE MADE A COMMITMENT IN THE LEGISLATION THAT WE WILL DO A FULL NEPA PROCESS.

David Majure: THE LAND EXCHANGE PROCESS DOES REQUIRE AN ANALYSIS BUT IT COMES AFTER THE BILL IS PASSED.

Sandy Bahr: IT'S A LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP LAW. WITH THIS PROCESS, YOU TAKE THIS GIANT LEAP WITHOUT ANY PROPER LOOK.

David Majure: RESOLUTION COPPER SAYS ITS LAND EXCHANGE BILL IS A BUSINESS DECISION BASED ON THE NEED TO SINK A SHAFT AND EXPLORE BENEATH OAK FLAT BEFORE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OR MINE FEASIBILITY CAN BE DETERMINED.

David Salisbury: WE AS A COMPANY, WE HAVE TO COMMIT NEARLY A BILLION DOLLARS TO DO THAT CORRECTLY. FOR US TO COMMIT TO THAT KIND OF MONEY WITHOUT SOME CLEAR PATH FORWARD IS A SIGNIFICANT BUSINESS RISK FOR US. AND SO WE'VE GOT TO HAVE SOME CONFIDENCE THAT AT THE END OF THIS PROCESS, THAT THERE IS A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL, THERE'S A WAY TO BUILD THE MINE AND DEVELOP A PROJECT THAT'S GOING TO REAP THE ECONOMIC BENEFIT BOTH FOR US AS A COMPANY AS WELL AS FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND LOCAL COMMUNITIES AS WELL.

David Majure: THE MINE IS SURE TO HAVE AN ECONOMIC IMPACT ON THE TOWN OF SUPERIOR. IT'S EXPECTED TO OPERATE FOR MORE THAN 50 YEARS WITH 1400 EMPLOYEES AT THE PEAK OF PRODUCTION. SIGNS OF SUPPORT ARE ALL OVER THE PLACE AND RESIDENTS LIKE MIKE MCKEE ARE OPTIMISTIC.

Mike McKee: I WANT THE MINE TO COME BACK. I KNOW IT'S GOING TO GIVE US THAT OPPORTUNITY, YOU KNOW, TO LET THE TOWN COME BACK ALIVE A LITTLE BIT.

David Majure: MIKE AND ROY HAVE BEEN FRIENDS FOR QUITE SOMETIME BUT THEY DON'T ALWAYS SEE EYE TO EYE, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO THE MINE.
Mike McKee: WE DON'T LET OUR DIFFERENCES RUIN OUR FRIENDSHIP.

David Majure: ROY IS PART OF A SMALL GROUP CONCERNED ABOUT HOW THE MINE WILL IMPACT LAND AND WATER.

Roy Chavez: DURING THIS PROCESS OF THE LAND EXCHANGE, THOSE QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED AFTER THE FACT. HOWEVER, WE BELIEVE AFTER THE FACT IS WAY TOO LATE.

David Majure: IN THE MEANTIME, RESOLUTION COPPER IS TRYING TO GAIN THE TRUST OF THE COMMUNITY THAT'S BEEN BURNED BY MINING TIME AND TIME AGAIN. IT'S INVESTING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO CLEAN UP THE MESS MAGMA LEFT BEHIND AND PROVIDING FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO SUPERIOR.

Michael Hing: THE TOWN SIGNED A MAJOR AGREEMENT WITH THE COMPANY TO PROVIDE SOCIAL IMPACT DOLLARS FOR THE COMMUNITY, AS MUCH AS $400,000 FOR THE NEXT 20 PLUS YEARS.

David Majure: THE MAYOR MICHAEL HING SAYS IT'S UP TO THE TOWN TO KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON MINING OPERATIONS.

Michael Hing: WE'RE GOING TO HOLD YOU ACCOUNTABLE, YOU BETTER DO IT RIGHT. I'M THE FIRST TO SAY YOU BETTER DO IT RIGHT.

David Majure: DONE RIGHT, THE MINING MAY BE JUST WHAT THIS TOWN NEEDS.

Mike McKee: OBAMA ISN'T GOING TO HELP US OUT WITH A STIMULUS PACKAGE. THIS IS A STIMULUS PACKAGE.

David Majure: IT'S ONE MORE BOOM FOR THIS TOWN THAT HAS SOME WORK TO DO TO KEEP FROM GOING BUST.

Michael Hing: WE CAN'T SOLELY DEPEND ON THE MINE. WE NEED TO CONTINUE TO DIVERSIFY OUR ECONOMY HERE.

Ted Simons: AFTER TOURING THE SITE OF THE PROPOSED COPPER MINE, INTERIOR SECRETARY KEN SALAZAR SAID HE'S OPTIMISTIC THAT A COMPROMISE ON THE LAND EXCHANGE IS POSSIBLE IF ALL SIDES CONTINUE TO TALK. COMING UP ON "HORIZON," GET A RECAP OF THE CASH-FOR-CLUNKERS PROGRAM AND HOW IT AFFECTED THE ECONOMY. WE WRAP UP OUR SERIES ON HEALTH CARE REFORM BY HEARING FROM THE ARIZONA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY. THAT'S THURSDAY AT 7:00 ON "HORIZON." THAT IS IT FOR NOW. I'M TED SIMONS. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.

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