A 7,000-feet-underground look at Arizona mining industry
Two weeks ago, four intrepid adventurers traveled nearly 7,000 feet deep into the earth during their visit to Resolution Copper, a mining project located in Superior, Arizona. The Arizona Junior Fellows, a project of the Arizona Chamber Foundation, were joined by representatives from the Arizona Mining Association and led by employees of Rio Tinto, the parent company of Resolution Copper, as they explored the mine for a closer look at the Arizona mining industry.
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Arizona leads the nation in copper production, making up 71% of U.S domestic production in 2021. The Resolution Copper Project has the potential to supply nearly 25% of U.S. copper demand and is expected to become the largest copper mine in North America when it initiates operations. The project is located 60 miles east of Phoenix, near the town of Superior. It’s a joint venture owned by Rio Tinto and BHP, two of the world’s largest mining companies. The mine is estimated to produce as much as 40 billion pounds of copper over 40 years.
Mila Besich, the mayor of Superior, has been a supporter of the mine’s opening. “If the Resolution Copper project comes to fruition, it will employ some of the most technologically-advanced and modern mining techniques ever,” she said, emphasizing the project’s innovative design. “It will have passed the most thorough and exhaustive environmental permitting ever and it will boast new jobs focused on robotics and other innovations that will make this the most sophisticated, advanced and environmentally-sensitive mine in the United States.”
In June, 2013 the Resolution copper mine submitted a Mine Plan of Operations to the U.S. Forest Service, the federal agency in charge of the approval process. The Mine Plan of Operations document outlines how Resolution intends to design, construct, operate, and eventually close the mine. Resolution believes that it has considered and taken into account the environmental impacts that copper extraction may bring to that area such as water, air, and biology in and around the project and how the company plans to protect these valuable resources.
The approval took longer than expected from the federal agency under the Biden administration. In January 2021 the U.S. Department of Agriculture directed the Forest Service to rescind the final Executive Information System to allow the agency for further review.
Generating approximately $61 billion in economic value and creating 3,700 direct and indirect jobs, Resolution is an economic juggernaut. Arizona business leaders consider the project a great source of growth and have opposed USDA’s decision to rescin the final EIS.
“I am extremely disappointed in the Administration’s decision to cease progress on Arizona’s Resolution Copper project, which is set to grow jobs and is estimated to create a direct and indirect economic impact of more than $1 billion to Arizona’s economy every year,” Governor Doug Ducey said.
About the Fellows
The Arizona Junior Fellows is a program of the Arizona Chamber Foundation, launched with the intent of mentoring and fostering a new generation of young, pro-enterprise leaders who understand both the larger societal implications of civic education, and the tactical and practical skills needed to navigate the public and private sectors with moral strength, human excellence, and civic virtue.
Its mission is “to build and promote the next generation of civically minded, pro-enterprise Arizona leaders through hands-on, applied experience in public affairs, policy research, event planning, project-building, and business operations.”
The program’s founder and adviser is Hon. Eileen Klein, former treasurer for Arizona and president emerita of the Arizona Board of Regents. Its inaugural program director is Joe Pitts, a student at Arizona State University, who continues to hold the title.
“The Fellowship has several major components,” Pitts said. “The Fellows hear from speakers in industry and politics every week through our weekly speaker series. They write for Chamber Business News to improve their writing and researching abilities. They help out Chamber staff on everything from legislative work to communications. And, they participate in site tours and facility visits, like we did at Resolution Copper.”
The Arizona Junior Fellows is the only statewide program dedicated to developing next-generation, civically-minded, pro-enterprise leaders through applied experience in public affairs, business writing, communications, research and analysis, and organizational management. Its existence beneath the Arizona Chamber Foundation gives Fellows the advantage of directly working with some of the state’s top businesses and their leadership, as well as top public officials.
The program operates from an interdisciplinary perspective, understanding that civics, business, public sector leadership, and the future of our state are all mutually reinforcing parts of the same common good. Junior Fellows come from a variety of backgrounds with diverse interests, with graduates pursuing careers in law, public policy, electioneering, executive business leadership, and other related fields.
In addition to its direct collaboration with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Fellowship has cultivated a partnership with Arizona State University’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (ASU SCETL). This connection allows Fellows a window into higher education and its management, culminating in the planning of panel discussions on-campus in partnership with ASU SCETL.
More information on the Arizona mining industry can be found here.