H.R. 687: Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013

H.R. 687

Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013

Sponsor
Rep. Paul Gosar

Date
September 26, 2013 (113th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Thursday, September 26, 2013, the House will begin consideration of H.R. 687, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013, under a rule.  H.R. 687 was introduced on February 14, 2013 by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ).  H.R. 687 was marked up on May 15, 2013 and ordered reported, as amended, by a vote of 23-19.[1]

Bill Summary

H.R. 687 authorizes a land exchange in Arizona between the federal government and the Resolution Copper mining company, in order to “facilitate the efficient extraction of mineral resources,” while bringing “private lands of environmental and archeological significance” under Federal management.[1]  The U.S. Forest Service would transfer to Resolution Copper 2,422 acres (“Federal land”), and in return, Resolution Copper would transfer to the Federal government 5,344 acres (“non-Federal land”).  Of the land transferred to the Federal government, 1,194 acres would become part of the National Forest System and 4,150 acres would go to the Bureau of Land Management for conservation.  The land transferred to Resolution Copper would allow the company to develop a large underground copper mine.

H.R. 687 requires the appraised value of the Federal and non-Federal land parcels to be equal.  If the appraised value of the Federal land exceeds that of the non-Federal land, Resolution Copper will be required to pay the Federal government the difference, either in the form of additional land, cash, or a combination of the two.  H.R. 687 requires the Secretary of Agriculture to use any such funds to acquire land to add to the National Forest Service.  If the appraised value of the non-Federal land exceeds that of the Federal land, the U.S. is prohibited from paying Resolution Copper to equalize the value and the surplus must be treated as a donation by Resolution Copper to the Federal government.

H.R. 687 requires Resolution Copper to issue a report each year quantifying the minerals produced on the Federal land.  If the company extracts more mineral resources from the Federal land than originally appraised, it will be required to compensate the Federal government for the difference.



[1] Id. at 1, 8.

Background

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. increasingly relies on foreign sources of copper.  In 2012, imports accounted for 35% of U.S. copper consumption.[1]  “Copper Mining LLC (Resolution Copper) owns land and holds mining claims near the Town of Superior, in southeastern Arizona.  In the late 1990s, Resolution Copper’s exploratory activities revealed the existence of a very large copper deposit on its claims, located between 4,500 to 7,000 feet below the surface.  Resolution Copper is interested in developing a large underground mine where the ore would be extracted and removed.  

“The Oak Flat Campground, part of the Tonto National Forest, is located in the center of Resolution Copper’s land holdings and mining claims.  Approximately 760 acres of National Forest lands in and around the Oak Flat Campground were withdrawn from entry under the mining laws in 1955 along with numerous other tracks of land for the purpose of establishing several campgrounds on the public lands.  See Public Land Order 1229 (Sept. 27, 1955); 20 Fed. Reg. 7336–37 (Oct. 1, 1955).

“Members of the Arizona Delegation have proposed a land exchange allowing Resolution Copper to acquire the campground and adjacent withdrawn National Forest lands so the company can proceed with development of the mine.  The Secretary of Agriculture would convey to Resolution Copper certain lands and interests in the Tonto National Forest, Arizona, in exchange for private lands of environmental and archeological significance in the State of Arizona for management by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  Legislation is required for the proposed land exchange because it includes National Forest System lands.”[2]

According to the House Committee on Natural Resources, “The mine could provide up to one-quarter of the nation’s estimated annual copper needs.  Resolution Copper estimates that the total economic impact of the mine will exceed $60 billion and support 3,700 jobs annually.”[3]



[1] U.S. Geological Survey, Mineral Commodities Summaries 2013 at 6.

[2] Id. at 7-8.

[3] Id. at 8.

Cost

According to CBO estimates, “implementing [H.R. 687] would cost less than $500,000 annually, assuming the availability of appropriated funds. . . .  Enacting the legislation could increase offsetting receipts, which are treated as reductions in direct spending; however, CBO has insufficient information to estimate whether any receipts would be collected under the bill.  Because enacting the bill could affect direct spending, pay-as-you-go procedures apply.”

Amendments

1)         Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ) Amendment #1 – Amendment requires the jobs this mine creates benefit the local community by requiring that the Remote Operating Center be located in the town of Superior, Arizona or an adjacent mining community.

2)         Rep. Lujan (D-NM) Amendment #5 – Amendment requires the Secretary to remove Native American sacred and cultural sites from the conveyance in consultation with affected Indian Tribes.

3)         Rep. Napolitano (D-CA) Amendment #3 – Amendment protects water quality and water quantity for the people living and working near this proposed mine, given estimates that mining operations will consume the equivalent of the annual water supply for 20,000 homes.

Additional Information

For more information, including maps and economic highlights, see the H.R. 687 resource page provided by Rep. Gosar.

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.