Ted Simons: On Monday we heard from residents of Superior who are against a proposed land swap that would allow a massive copper mine to be built near the town. Tonight we hear from Mila Besich-Lira, and she favors the land swap. Good to have you here.
Mila Besich-Lira: Thank you for having me.
Ted Simons: Why is this a good thing for Superior?
Mila Besich-Lira: This is a very good thing for Superior because for generations we have been a copper mining region. Originally for silver, and now copper is part of our universe. This is a good thing for us, we need this.
Ted Simons: What kind of jobs are we talking about here?
Mila Besich-Lira: 3,700 . We're talking about high tech jobs, robotics, people who can fix robots. This isn't the mining my great grandfather did, I've been in the community for four generations.
Ted Simons: We had some opponents on earlier in the week and they are worried about that. They say some of these jobs folks in Superior may not qualify for, or they may not be available to them.
Mila Besich-Lira: They are worried about that, but that's a sad thing to worry about. We should be training our students to be able to have those jobs. I think we're going to be able to do that just fine.
Ted Simons: You think so?
Mila Besich-Lira: I'm confident in that.
Ted Simons: You're confident of jobs and the numbers that are there?
Mila Besich-Lira: Yes, I'm very confident those things will happen for our community.
Ted Simons: Not just the region, but for Superior?
Mila Besich-Lira: For Superior.
Ted Simons: As far as the ex-mayor, we had Roy Chavez on, he was concerned regarding the NEPA process. These are environmental studies down to make sure the land is not going to be damaged to a certain extent. I want to hear what you have to say about what he had to say, because he was concerned there are no NEPA studies in place prior to the land swap. Let's listen.
SOT: I do not believe that the general public 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 it going to be processed, crushed, milled? Right now there's an issue going on in regards to the waste, disposal of the waste, the byproduct.
Ted Simons: We have the NEPA concerns, no mining plan of operation. Are these concerns to you?
Mila Besich-Lira: There is a mining plan of operation. All mines are required to have those. But the regulations are in place and I'm confident, as I said before, I'm very confident this is a good thing for Superior.
Ted Simons: Back to the NEPA issue. Let's hear what Ms. Kiki Peralta had to say.
SOT: The major sticking point is the fact that they don't want to do the NEPA studies prior to this land swap. We want to know what's going to happen before, you know, 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: Would you like to see the studies done prior?
Mila Besich-Lira: The studies are being done as we speak. The mine plans of operations are being done and communicated to the public as parts of them are being done. And once that mine plan of operations is complete, that will start the NEPA automatically. We need to get this land exchange moving so we can get these jobs working in our community.
Ted Simons: There's some concern, as well, once the land is private, the NEPA study and result, it doesn't matter, that concerns public land. It now becomes private land. Again, respond.
Mila Besich-Lira: The mine will have to follow all the regulations, it doesn't matter if it's private or public land. The regulations that the state imposes, the EPA, I'm confident that our community will be protected environmentally.
Ted Simons: How much is this dividing the community?
Mila Besich-Lira: Immensely. The divide is just -- it's very sad to see, because our community wants jobs. We want to thrive and we want a diversified economy. But right now there's no plan in place for that. Resolution is part of that plan for us to have a sustainable economy.
Ted Simons: As far as the sustainable economy, the impact directly. There are some that says these foreign firms, they pay little or nothing in the way of royalties. What can you tell us about that?
Mila Besich-Lira: Well, you know, that's the mining laws that are set in place. But what people aren't understanding that is those revenues that come in, the fact that people will have jobs and money to spend, send their children to college, that's important. Those moneys get recirculated into the community. Resolution Copper has provided more money to the town of Superior and communities throughout the region, it has really helped us rebuild our economy and special projects. I'm not worried that the mining companies don't pay the amount of royalties. The investments they have to play, billions of dollars' investment, trickles down into the tax coffers, you know, fairly.
Ted Simons: What about the idea that sacred tribal areas will be affected?
Mila Besich-Lira: You know, in Superior having jobs is sacred. That's what I kind of think is important. Protecting the Native Americans is also very important, and what their needs are. But we need to sit at the table and figure out how to preserve those things together.
Ted Simons: Why do you think there is so much opposition to this land swap?
Mila Besich-Lira: I think the opposition has come out of just fear and people not listening to what's really going on. I think there's a lot of specialty -- special interests that have gotten involved that are not really listening to what people in Superior and the copper corridor really want. We want to go back to work.
Ted Simons: I want to go back to our guests Monday and get one more response from you. This is the idea some are saying that these folks are anti-mine. Kiki Peralta was saying that's far from the case. Let's listen.
SOT: 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 was the first female laborer to be hired by Magma in 1975. I am 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 that.
Ted Simons: I hear that time and again, you're supposed to go A, B and C. What's happening in Superior is all over the alphabet. How do you respond?
Mila Besich-Lira: I don't think that that is the case. Resolution Copper has been extremely transparent with the community. They host meetings and community sessions for everyone to come and understand step by step of the process and where they are at. If you're not present at those meetings and understanding what's going on, you're going to be in the dark. And I think what's most important is that you listen to what Resolution is saying, understanding the NEPA law entirely. It's the federal government's responsibility to impose the NEPA. What I would like to see is our community come together and work on these issues and not just stop them completely.
Ted Simons: All right. Very good. I'm glad we had you on the program. Thanks for joining us, appreciate it.
Mila Besich-Lira: Thank you.