On behalf of the Secretary of Agriculture, the Tonto National Forest is preparing a single Environmental Impact Statement for two related federal actions:
- Approving a general plan of operations submitted by Resolution Copper Mining, LLC, which would govern surface disturbance on National Forest System (NFS) lands from mining operations that are reasonably incident to extraction, transportation, and processing of copper and molybdenum.
- The mine proposal would create one of the largest copper mines in the United States, with an estimated surface disturbance of 6,951 acres (approximately 11 square miles).
- It also would be one of the deepest mines in the United States, with mine workings extending 7,000 feet beneath the surface.
- Facilitating a land exchange of the Oak Flat Federal Parcel (2,422 acres of NFS land) for eight parcels located throughout Arizona (5,376 acres of private land currently owned by Resolution Copper) as directed by Section 3003 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2015.
On August 9, 2019, the Tonto National Forest released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Resolution Copper Project and Land Exchange. The document discloses the direct, indirect and cumulative environmental impacts that would result from the approval of the general plan of operations and land exchange.
Release of the DEIS initiated a 90-day public comment period – from August 10 through November 7, 2019. The Forest Service will analyze comments, consider substantive comments, and conduct further analysis as necessary. A summary of response to comments on the DEIS will be included as an appendix in the Final EIS.
In 2020, the Forest Service project team and the environmental consultant to the Forest Service will meet, discuss and evaluate which of the public's substantive comments warrant additional analysis and also tailor mitigations as they prepare the final EIS. The Forest Service anticipates releasing the final EIS in winter 2021. The Land Exchange will be fully executed no later than 60 days after the release of the final EIS. The Forest Service also will release a draft Record of Decision (ROD). The draft ROD will be subject to an administrative review process (also known as the objection process), pursuant to 36 CFR part 218, for a period of 45 days. During this time, individuals or entities with specific concerns may file an objection for a Forest Service review. Following completion of the objection process, the Forest Service anticipates issuing a final ROD in summer 2022.