The Tonto National Forest held the second of four planned public meetings in Globe at the Elks Club last evening. Over sixty people attended and public comments and questions were heard for nearly three hours.
What is “public scoping” and “EIS?”
“Public Scoping” is the first step in the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process. On Monday in Superior, TNF announced that it would double the length of the public scoping period, extending it to 120 days. Members of the public now have until Monday, July 18, 2016, to submit comments.
During the NEPA process, TNF seeks public comments, which will help shape their EIS (Environmental Impact Statement). Public comments will help determine issues for study in the EIS. According to the forest service, public comments help the “identify alternatives to address issues,” and “identify mitigations to lessen or avoid adverse effects.” In short, this is an important time for folks in the Copper Corridor to provide comments that could help shape how Resolution mines in our area.
Subsidence: Resolution proposes mining the area around and including the Oak Flat Campground using a method of mining called “panel caving” or “block caving.” This method of mining intentionally causes the earth to cave in on itself, producing a “subsidence” crater. This means that there is no waste rock produced in the mining process. Resolution projects that block caving will produce a crater 1,000 feet deep and 1.5 miles in diameter.
Some of the issues raised in Globe and Superior regarding the subsidence included:
- How accurate are Resolution’s projections regarding the size and shape of the crater?
- Is it possible that the crater could affect Apache Leap?
- How long after mining will subsidence begin?
- TNF is not aware of any plans to backfill or reclaim the crater.
- Could Resolution fill the mine somehow as they go, to prevent or minimize subsidence?
Tailings: Resolution proposes putting a permanent tailings storage facility on public lands in the Tonto National Forest between Superior and Queen Valley. Resolution projects that at its maximum, the tailings dam will be 575 feet high and will disturb approximately 7 square miles of land.
Some of the issues raised in Globe and Superior regarding the tailings included:
- How many tailings dams have failed in North America?
- Resolution has proposed a tailings dam that uses “upstream construction.” TNF project manager Mark Nelson called upstream construction “in terms of the record of failures, the most dangerous type of tailings facility to construct.”
- Another tailings dam that uses upstream technology failed in Brazil and killed 19 people in November.
Socioeconomic Issues: Resolution Copper projects that it will directly employ 1,400 people locally during operations, creating 2,300 indirect jobs as a result. An independent economic study commissioned by Resolution Copper projects that the mine will produce a total economic impact of more than 64.1 million dollars for the state of Arizona.
Some of the issues raised in Globe and Superior regarding socioeconomic issues included:
- Will TNF look at the potential positive economic impact during maximum production of Resolution on the entire region, including Globe-Miami and San Carlos, not just Superior? Will it look at the potential negative economic impact?
- Globe business owners report having already felt a positive impact as a result of Resolution and receive a large portion of their business from mining projects.
- Could the mine hinder tourism in the area? Will jobs be lost because of the mine?
- Resolution could provide important employment opportunities for young people in our communities.
- Outdoor recreation has more than twice as many dollars of positive impact as mining in the state of Arizona every year and Oak Flat is an important recreation area.
Culture, Health, Land Exchange, and Quality of Life Issues:
Some issues raised in Globe and Superior regarding culture, health, and quality of life included:
- Will there be light and dust pollution as a result of the tailings and the infrastructure necessary to run the mine at capacity?
- It is important to understand how religious this issue is.
- Why hasn’t there been a scoping meeting in San Carlos?
- Mining is an important part of our heritage and history.
- There are Apaches who do not consider Oak Flat sacred.
- The area is sacred, not only to Apaches.
- Has mining contributed to a cancer cluster in our area and could Resolution’s mine further contribute?
- The way this plays out could set a dangerous precedent regarding freedom of religion.
- TNF cannot block the land exchange. The land exchange is federal law.
- Is the mine’s water use sustainable and could it impact other communities who use Central Arizona Project (CAP) water?
- How will TNF appraise the lands in the land exchange?
Get more information and provide feedback: If you missed a meeting, here is a link to the presentation that the Forest Service has provided at each of the scoping meetings.
Click here to read more about the details of the project.
How to provide feedback if you cannot make it to a meeting. You can do so anonymously:
- Send written comments to: Resolution EIS Comments, P.O. Box 34468, Phoenix, AZ 85067-4468
- Send comments via email to Comments@resolutionmineeis.us
- Submit comments via the web site www.resolutionmineeis.us
- Leave a verbal message at 1-866-546-5718
According to the Forest Service, “Comments are more helpful when they:
- Are solution oriented and provide specific examples rather than simply opposing the proposed project.
- Identify significant resource issues or other concerns that should be addressed in the EIS analysis; and
- Suggest potential alternatives that should be considered.”
Example, from TNF: “The EIS should consider the potential for acid rock drainage to leak into underground aquifers and to contaminate springs and other water sources downstream from Oak Flat.”
Autumn Giles is a freelance writer and recipe developer whose work has appeared in Edible Baja Arizona, Modern Farmer, Punch, Serious Eats, and elsewhere. Her first book, Beyond Canning was published in February 2016.