To: Congressional House Committee on Natural Resources
Subject: Comments on HR-687
What if we were to create a sustainable Earth that would continue to be livable for healthy human beings for another hundred years? If this is a reasonable goal, destroying trees and natural watersheds in our National Forests is not an option. Trees of our forests are the Earth's sentinels protecting and ensuring the continuation of life. Trees provide clean water, clean air, clean soil, shade and habitat. We must protect them; they must flourish for life on the Earth to continue.
I am a resident of Arizona—for 30 years—and an avid user of our wonderful National Forests. I am grateful to President Theodore Roosevelt for setting aside forested areas here in the Southwest. If it had not been for his foresight (and that of several previous Presidents), there would not be a tree left in the Western United States. Personally, I want to continue enjoying the National Forests and the benefits they bring to my health and well-being—and the health of the planet.
I find many unanswered questions on the issue of trading centuries-old oak trees at Oak Flat campground for parcels of burnt-out ranch land. Even the Tonto Forest Service personnel have deemed these “swap” properties unsuitable for any public use, such as a campground. Not one of the swap plots contains even one century-old oak tree, but only mesquite trees, considered invasive weed trees. These trees are not “old-growth,” they are the result of cattle ranching in the late 1800's and nearly 1900's. Consequently, the native, natural grasslands were destroyed and mesquites and cactus filled in.
See photos of “exchange” properties:
In addition to destroying trees that provide clean air and water, habitat for wildlife, and shade for human recreation, the present Congress would be bypassing the laws created by past Congresses by enacting the Land Swap Bill HR-687. In 1891 through 1916, lands were set aside for protection of the forests—“for future generations.”
When President Roosevelt created the nation's forest system, he created a separate entity to manage them and placed them under the Agriculture Department. Minerals are not agriculture. Forests in the northwest and east were to be managed for sustainable logging. Forests in the southwest were to be protected to preserve rivers, streams and ponds to gather and conserve rain to provide water for the growing western cities. All National Forests were created and preserved, as in the case of Oak Flat, by Presidential Orders. See report on wildlife in Oak Flat region: http://www.mining-law-reform.info/Wildlife.htm
The following questions need to be addressed and are discussed in sections below:
Rio Tinto information states they have five “underground projects across the United States and Canada.” [See http://resolutioncopper.com/about-us/ (under Tom Goodell)] Has there been an inquiry into the safety records at these five mines? Photos of the recent landslide at Rio Tinto's Kennecott operations: http://blog.skytruth.org/2013/04/landslide-at-bingham-canyon-mine-utah.html
Mining fatalities are a reality. While Rio Tinto's Resolution copper operation has had only one fatality (Note 1), one serious injury (Note 2), and dozens of accidents (Note 3), the old underground Magma mine that Rio Tinto has taken over had two major cave-ins in recent history that took the lives of eight miners. Four men were killed in a triple cave-in in 1982 and another four in 1993. Superior's retired miners and residents remember the tragedies; therefore, many refuse to work underground.
These tragedies do indicate unstable conditions for retrieving ore. The region was formed and inundated by volcanic action a million years ago that left unknown rifts and fractures in an irregular layer from 1,000 to 2,000 feet thick, including the forming of Apache Leap. Further, the area below the tuff is riddled with a network of 200 miles of tunnels constructed by the former operator. How will these tunnels affect the stability of the land/bedrock mass that is being excavated?
Media notices of the deaths of eight men at Magma operations due to two cave-ins that denote the unstable conditions of the mining area:
May 10, 1982
Number Killed – 4: Joey Granillo, Superior; “Spaghetti Joe” Foreman from New York; Martinez from New Mexico; Unknown]
MAGMA COPPER CO. ANNOUNCES FATALITIES AT SUPERIOR MINING DIVISION
Does the use of robots increase safety?
In Rio Tinto presentations, they show that they definitely will be using robots in their Resolution project. Does this method increase the safety for the underground miners? Mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP are the leaders in promoting and using remotely operated equipment in their mining operations. The robots solve two problems
In Rio Tinto's presentation in a 2011 BMO Capital Markets Mining Workshop of 56 pages on block-caving mining, they emphasize the financial gains for the company in processing low-grade ores, while giving no assessment of the environmental impacts of the thousands of tons of waste and slurry. There is one slide on the safety risks with a category of “Major Operational Hazards.”
Entire presentation: http://www.femp.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/CAT-workshop-Rio-Tinto-Block-Caving.pdf
[Source: AzDeptWaterResources: http://infoshare.azwater.gov/docushare/dsweb/HomePage ]
At the time of closure of the Magma Mine in 1986, an average of 450 gallons per minute (gpm) was being continuously pumped out of the tunnel system from various pumping stations. Maximum pumping rates (1200 gallons per minute) occurred after heavy rainfalls and when water flowed in Queen Creek. So this is not just stagnant, accumulated water; there is a steady inflow of water into the mining site. At the SME annual meeting in Denver in March 2011, Resolution Copper personnel gave a paper that estimated that they would be dealing with “about 300 million gallons per year of new inflow.” [See Resolution Report: Dewatering, Treatment and Beneficial Reuse of Water from the Resolution Copper Mine http://dc312.4shared.com/doc/s8KUX5Uu/preview.html ]
In fact, in 2003, American Insurance Group (AIG) denied ASARCO insurance coverage when they were considering reopening the mining operation at Oak Flat/Apache Leap because of the high risk factor…. not only for the employees, but AIG assessed that the underground blasting would make the nearby climbing areas unpredictably unstable and therefore unsafe for recreational climbers. The entire southwest is an an earthquake zone. The geology of the region has been studied extensively by both USGS and University of Arizona.
Tertiary Volcanic Rocks of the Mineral Mountain and Teapot Mountain Quadrangles, Pinal County, Arizona
Has the number of jobs—presently claimed to be 3,600—actually been verified? I live by the Freeport-McMoran's Sierrita, one of the largest copper and molybdenum mines in Arizona. It operates at full capacity and employees 1,200 persons for the operations. And they don't use robots as Resolution says it will be doing (see video below). Originally, the numbers given by Resolution were 450 permanent jobs and 1,200 temporary construction jobs. Therefore, the 3,600 number looks like it could be inflated.
A company spokesperson said that 2,000 of the jobs would be construction jobs to get the mine in operation. There are already buildings at the site, so the principal construction will be the struts and conveyance system at 7,000 feet (they start mining at the lowest depth). There will be no Arizonan company capable of accomplishing this kind of work. How long will these 2,000 jobs last?
What Arizonan company has the capability to build the automated loaders that will be doing the underground loading as shown in a Resolution Copper video demonstrating their operations at Apache Leap? The Resolution Copper project has an informational video showing how they will use “automated loaders” [at minute: 2.09] for removing for what is stated to be “low-grade ore” [at minute: 0.31] at their Superior operation.
Link to Resolution's video on use of robots in its operations at Superior: http://player.vimeo.com/video/50785129?title=0
At the present time and for the past three years, Freeport-McMoran and ASARCO's personnel sections have had difficulty finding any qualified personnel. I kept records in 2011 for available mining jobs in Arizona. The number ranged from 150 positions in May to 350 in November. [See http://www.mining-law-reform.info/CurrentJobs.htm ] In January 2013, there were 190 unfilled mining jobs in Arizona—at all skill levels.
Have the Congresspersons or staff taken the time to communicate with the management of Arizona mining companies to ascertain these facts? The number of mining jobs that remain unfilled in Arizona can be ascertained any time:
Job Posting sites:
When Resolution has a rally in Superior to gather support, there are a number of miners present. I have questioned them. They are all working miners at the nearby Pinto Creek, Miami or Hayden mines. They have no intention of working at Resolution's operation.
The current operations manager and almost half of the management team are from Australia, South Africa and Canada. [See http://resolutioncopper.com/about-us/] And what taxes will the foreign managers be paying here? David Salisbury, a former operations supervisor told me, “Like all corporations, Rio Tinto will not pay any Federal taxes. Senator John McCain said there would be a billion dollars in the Federal coffers, but that money will come from the federal income tax the employees pay.” But what about the taxes the managers will pay?
Resolution has already shown that they use out-of-state contractors, as they used Boart Longyear out of Salt Lake City (home of Rio Tinto's Kennecott operation) to do the explorative drilling project on National Forest Lands between the Old Magma operations and Oak Flat Campground. So how many of the jobs will go to Arizonans?
Headquarters for Resolution exploratory drilling on Tonto National Forest land
Boart Longyear Drilling Services haul truck
Boart Longyear Drilling, Salt Lake City, Utah
Photos taken by Nancy Freeman, March 2011, in Tonto National Forest
I always say if you want to know how mining creates prosperous communities, drive through Globe, Miami, Hayden and Ray where mining has been going on continuously for 100 years. There is not a single indication, monument or decent building that there was every any prosperity for the miners. Anyone who is pretending that mining brings prosperity to a community is perpetuating a myth. The money went to New York City investors in the past, and now goes to foreign investors.
III. Ramifications of having mile wide and deep crater in the area with corresponding waste piles from the diggings
The long-term ramification of having another “meteor crater” in a populated area in Arizona is a total unknown. Obviously, Resolution copper knew it was major issue because they denied that there would be subsidence for at least 4 years. Even Madan Singh, the former Director of the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources, stated, “Subsidence is an inevitable consequence of underground mining – it may be small and localized or extend over large areas, it may be immediate or delayed for many years.”
Finally, in 2009, Resolution Copper admitted there would be subsidence the size of Arizona's “Meteor Crater,” which is nearly one mile across, 2.4 miles in circumference and more than 570 feet deep. No reclamation plan deals with this huge crater and no reclamation plan can deal with this huge crater. See map [Note: This map came from Resolution Copper's website [ http://resolutioncopper.com/images/sp_large.jpg ] in 2009, but they have since removed it from their website. This crater will create a cone of depression that will draw surface water into it. The water that normally flows from Oak Flat to Devil's Canyon will be obstructed.
If there is crater, it is a given there will be a mountain created of equal size somewhere, minus the 2.0 % estimate of copper and moly extracted. “Where” that mountain will be created has not been determined, but the mountain will be a great burden on the surrounding landscape and watershed of the Tonto National Forest, not only for its size, but also for its contents of milled heavy metals that can be released to the environment. Will the heavy metals include radioactive components that are so prevalent in Arizona's bedrock that when the EPA published a study on technologically enhanced radioactive materials (TENORM), the analysis had been conducted in Arizona mine sites: [See http://www.mining-law-reform.info/EPA%20TENORM.pdf ]
One must take into account the critical situation of water levels in Arizona, which have been lowering continuously for the past 100 years. When President Roosevelt created National Forests in order for the population of the Southwest to have sufficient water, he had no idea of the impact that modern pit mining and subsidized cotton farming would take on Arizona's water supply.
To alleviate the problem, the Federal Government subsidized Central Arizona Project (CAP)—the largest and most expensive aqueduct system ever constructed in the United States at a cost of $3 billion to taxpayers. The project was envisioned to provide water to nearly one million acres of irrigated subsidized cotton land in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties, as well as municipal water for metropolitan areas of Phoenix and Tucson. However, the problems of lowering water tables continues, especially east of Phoenix: http://www.azwater.gov/AzDWR/Hydrology/Geophysics/documents/LandSubsidenceInArizonaFactSheet_003.pdf
While hundreds of government personnel are attempting to alleviate Arizona's continuing groundwater deficit, Resolution Cooper will be using major amounts of water. The Freeport-McMoran Sierrita mine's water use for processing the ore is at 27,000 acre feet per year.
Where will Resolution get their supply water? Since there is no Mining Plan of Operations, this question remains unanswered. At a recent meeting with the Globe Town Council meeting, a Resolution Copper hydrologist gave a presentation.
Resolution Mine Answers [Water] Worries By Ed Kuehneman
Resolution Copper's hydrologist Greg Ghidotti explains that the new mine would not use the region's groundwater.
[Thanks to Ed Kuehneman for permission to use his story as printed in Benson's "Copper Country News"]
Resolution has over 150 wells listed on the ADWR well inventory. However, there is sparse information on the pumping from most of wells. Further, the “Other” category of 48 wells remains undefined. However, many of the “Other” category were drilled to 7,000 feet, so it is not likely that the wells are used to pump water.
Resolution Wells from Arizona Department of Water Resources Records
Non-exempt industrial wells (depths 1,000 to 6,000 ft) = 7
Resolution's water rights permits:
Resolution also has additional sources of water. During the reclamation efforts by Resolution at the old Magma smelter and mill site, they purchased water from Arizona Water Company, reported at a public meeting with the Superior Town Council to be some 200,000 gallons a month during their reclamation project at the old mill, smelter and tailings site. This source of water from the Florence Junction well field serves communities. What effect will it have on current users? In Arizona, there are statutes regarding transfers of water out of the service area, out of the sub-basin, and out of the Active Management Area AMA). The statutes that address transportation of groundwater in relation to AMAs are in 45-541 thru 45-545.
Resolution Copper states on its website:
We are planning prudently for the future water needs of our mining project. We have already purchased and banked excess Central Arizona Project (CAP) water to meet about half of our mining needs. [http://resolutioncopper.com/the-project/water-management]
Note that Resolution Copper is planning for the water needs of their mining project with no planning whatsoever for the future water levels in the region. Further, they have misstated their “banked” water, for that water has been delivered and used by the New Magma Irrigation District, as is stated on the Resolution website:
James [Almaas] is responsible for mine water treatment operations and our 27-mile-long pipeline from the company's mine site to the Central Arizona Project (CAP) canal, where our treated mine water is blended and used for beneficial agricultural use. [emphasis added] http://resolutioncopper.com/about-us/
Resolution has water “credits” to pump groundwater from wherever they please (mining is exempt from the Groundwater Code in Arizona). What will this pumping mean to the public water supply in the North Florence well field where traditionally the former mine, Magma, had its supply wells? I have contacted Arizona Water Company, which furnishes water to Superior, with this question. To date, I have not received a reply.
The water situation in Arizona is in crisis. Arizona State is running a campaign for residents to conserve water:
In addition to the misleading statement about their “banked” water, which has actually been used by Magma irrigation district, in 2007 Resolution also planned to ignore with the Clean Water Act by dumping two billion gallons of toxic water out of the old Magma Mine “shaft 9” into Queen Creek, which flowed through Superior and on further behind Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park. Fortunately, the Arboretum management objected and notified the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality was notified. ADEQ required Resolution Copper to obtain a discharge permit and purify the water. Even after treatment, the water still had to be mixed with other water to be of a quality to use on crops. That is to way when it comes to water, Resolution Copper officials do not seem to have a clear concept of Federal or Arizona water statutes.
There needs to be a complete modeling of the hydrology of the region and the impact on private wells in Superior region, including wells up to and including the town of Top of the World and private ranchers in the region. Resolution Copper needs to be proactive in analyzing the regional hydrology. There are Federal Regulations concerning depleting water in the National Forest (and any reserve of public lands).
When the United States reserves public land for uses such as Indian reservations, military reservations, national parks, forest, or monuments, it also implicitly reserves sufficient water to satisfy the purposes for which the reservation was created.
This mandate was established in 1908 by Winters v. United States: www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/co/field_offices/denca/DENCA_Advisory_Council/extra_materials_for.Par.33214.File.dat/FedResWaterRights.pdf Subsequent laws have watered down the original intent. However, in a case in 1999 in Arizona regarding water on BLM reservation land reaffirmed the Federal rights are still in tact. The presiding judge wrote, “The [Winter's] doctrine applies not only to Indian reservations, but to other federal enclaves, such as national parks, forests, monuments, military bases, and wildlife preserves.”
The Federal rights to water in our public lands, including National Forests were reasserted again in the Gila River Adjudication in Arizona:
SUPREME COURT OF ARIZONA
From Opinion by Judge Noel A. Fidel:
When the Federal Government withdraws its land from the public domain and reserves it for a federal purpose, the Government, by implication, reserves appurtenant water then unappropriated to the extent needed to accomplish the purpose of the reservation. In so doing the United States acquires a reserved right in unappropriated water which vests on the date of the reservation and is superior to the rights of future appropriators.
Cappaert v. United States, 426 U.S. 128, 138, 48 L. Ed. 2d 523, 96 S. Ct. 2062 (1976). The doctrine applies not only to Indian reservations, but to other federal enclaves, such as national parks, forests, monuments, military bases, and wildlife preserves.
Id. at 138-39;Arizona v. California, 373 U.S. 546, 601, 10 L. Ed. 2d 542, 83 S. Ct. 1468 (1963).
For additional information: http://www.g-a-l.info/Protection2.htm
Further, as noted above in Section III. Ramifications of having mile wide and deep crater in the area with corresponding waste piles from the diggings, the sump caused by subsidence will dewater the surrounding forests and private ranchers' wells in the region and will serve as a catchment basin for the rainwater that would have been delivered to Devil's Creek.
Since Resolution Copper has no Mining Plan of Operations, they have not assessed the potential regional water issues—but they are working on their own water supplies, the sources of which have not yet been disclosed.
In the January, 2000, U. S. Forest Service report: Water and the Forest Service , [http://www.stream.fs.fed.us/publications/PDFs/Water_and_FS.pdf] created by the FS National Headquarters (with taxpayers money) emphasizes the importance of forests for maintaining a viable, clean water supply. Certainly, the situation has not changed, only worsened, in thirteen years. The Forest Service is not living up to its own publicly-stated mission and goals–or well researched reports.
In early 2012, Elizabeth Bernays, Regents' Professor Emeritus, University of Arizona, wrote an appeal regarding mining in southern Arizona that was signed by 333 members of the academic community—in U.S. and other countries. Many individuals are seriously concerned about the possibility of intensive mining in Arizona, where water is very short and precious, and biodiversity is unusually high. Take any acre in an Arizona National Forest and I guarantee, you will find more diversity in flora, fauna, reptiles and insects than any forest in any other state. The diversity never ceases to amaze me—and I have lived in wooded regions in Vermont, northern California, and the Sam Houston National Forest.
Forest Service Sign in Coronado National Forest
Destruction of our National Forests through purposeful operations that will destroy the vegetation, habitat and watershed forever is not an option for a healthy environment and healthy people. The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.
I implore you to help the Forest Service keep their promise to the public by protecting Oak Flat for the enjoyment of “future generations.”