Devils Canyon August 2009

WASHINGTON – Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will visit Arizona this month to get a firsthand look at the proposed site of a huge underground copper mine near Superior.

Salazar will be in Arizona on Aug. 21 at the request of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

McCain is co-sponsoring a bill with Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., to allow Resolution Copper Co. to obtain about 2,400 acres of land in the Oak Flat area of the Tonto National Forest in exchange for giving the federal government more than 5,500 acres of environmentally sensitive land.

The Obama administration has not yet said whether it will support the mine. Developers say the project has the potential to provide 25 percent of the nation’s copper, create 1,400 high-paying jobs and generate nearly $11 billion in tax revenue for the local, state and federal governments.

McCain has been trying to prod Interior Department officials to make a decision on the land swap, which stalled two years ago, after then-Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., was accused of trying to pressure the company to buy unrelated property from his former business partner in exchange for his help on the deal. Renzi has pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges.

McCain has noted that the Interior Department supported the project during the past three sessions of Congress, before President Barack Obama took office.

He has even put a hold on some of Obama’s top agency nominees to try to force the administration to take a position.

Interior officials have said they need time to evaluate the project’s potential impact on the environment and on lands with cultural value to American Indian tribes.

Critics of the proposed mine say it would destroy sacred tribal lands and threaten water supplies as far away as Phoenix.

After visiting the proposed mine site, Salazar and McCain will be joined by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., on a trip to Grand Canyon National Park.

Udall chairs a Senate subcommittee on national parks and has been holding hearings on ways to improve park preservation.

“I appreciate my friends Secretary Ken Salazar and Senator Mark Udall for taking time from their busy schedules to travel to Arizona to obtain a firsthand look at the proposed mining operations at Resolution Copper and visit the Grand Canyon, one of the world’s greatest treasures,” McCain said in a prepared statement.

Source: by Erin Kelly – Aug. 7, 2009 12:00 AM
Republic Washington Bureau


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