Forest Service begins Oak Flat environmental review

The passage of the Oak Flat Land Exchange — that terrible piece of legislation buried within the depths of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act — was the last major piece of news regarding the proposed Resolution Copper Mine near Superior, Arizona.  This is the mine that would destroy the publicly owned Oak Flat — the area sacred to the San Carlos Apache Tribe, and the place used for decades by rock climbers, campers and hikers.  

In early April, however, another major development occurred; the Tonto National Forest — the lead agency tasked with the federal permit required for the mine and the land exchange under the National Environmental Policy Act — formally began the scoping process for the mine's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This means that the public will have a chance to tell the Forest Service what to study as it considers the environmental (and other) impacts of the mine as currently proposed, and what alternatives must be considered to the current mine plan.

Despite the unfortunate passage of the land exchange — which Earthworks and many other groups are trying to repeal through new legislation — the scoping process for the EIS is actually good news because it allows the public a say in the broader conversation with our civil servants who will be shaping the EIS. Right now, and until a July 18th scoping comment period deadline, we have the chance to give ourselves standing on this multiple year long EIS process, and hold the agencies accountable as they study the myriad impacts this mine will bring as well as alternatives to mitigate them.

Earthworks is working closely with a broad coalition in writing comprehensive scoping comments.  Some of the issues we'll focus on deal with how this mine could be built without the total sacrifice of Oak Flat.  The current plan involves blasting huge caves underground so big the land above it will collapse into a mile-wide crater, swallowing Oak Flat.  This is the cheap way to build a mine — a way that doesn't consider what happens to the surface. 

But we'll be pushing the agencies and the mining company hard to consider alternative engineering techniques — techniques commonly employed by mines worldwide that don't impact the surface above. Regarding mine tailings, we're challenging the current plan to dump them 500 feet high over about seven square miles of additional National Forest land, and looking for ways to avoid that impact, such as placing tailings in the pits of nearby inactive mines.  These are two of many examples of ways we're pushing for the best outcome if this mine is to move forward — other issues include water management and renewable energy sourcing.  And at the same time, we're pushing Congress to repeal the land exchange so things at Oak Flat stay the same as they've been for thousands of years. 

To submit your own EIS scoping comments, please visit: http://www.resolutionmineeis.us/

Or, stay tuned until you or your organization can sign onto our comments in the next few months. 
Click here to view a threat map of Oak Flat, and here to view a informational brochure outlining what's at stake