ASSOCIATED PRESS – SUPERIOR, Ariz. — Outside of an aging mining town in the mountains east of Phoenix, a copper company has burrowed a shaft 1.3 miles into the high desert landscape in what is believed to be the deepest such mine in the U.S.
Resolution Copper Mining says the mine will usher in a new era of prosperity for Arizona, bringing in the equivalent of roughly a $1 billion worth of revenue annually for about 60 years in a state still trying to emerge from the housing bust.
The mine also will use approximately 18,000 acre feet of water annually, enough to supply about 40,000 homes. And it will claim nearly 5-square miles on the edge of nearby Superior to store mining waste that can be toxic.
The plan has angered conservationists, residents and Native American tribes who argue the mine will cause irreparable harm to land coveted for its beauty, biodiversity and sanctity.
Tribes say the project could destroy part of a historic ridge where dozens of Apache warriors leapt to their deaths to avoid surrendering to U.S. Calvary during western expansion.
The company, business leaders and Republican members of Congress believe they have addressed environmental and tribal concerns while protecting the environment and holy Native American locations.
Copper is one of Arizona’s most abundant resources and remains a vital part of the state’s economy. The Arizona Mining Association estimated that if Arizona was a country, it would be the ninth-biggest copper producer in the world.
But mining that mineral wealth creates the risk of pollution and a vicious boom-and-bust cycle that the Sierra Club says has resulted in more than 100,000 abandoned mine shafts around the state.
A study by Arizona-based Elliot D. Pollack and Company found that Resolution Copper Mine could produce as much as $64.1 billion in economic value over the estimated 60-year mine life, about a third of which will go to local, state and federal tax revenues.
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