Project Update (as of noon MST, March 1, 2021)

On January 15, 2021, the Tonto National Forest released the Resolution Copper Project Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and draft Record of Decision (ROD) for objection. In the time since these documents were released, the Agency and Department have received significant input from collaborators, partners, and the public through a variety of means.

On March 1, 2021, USDA directed the Forest Service to withdraw the Notice of Availability and rescind the FEIS and draft ROD. The pre-decisional objection period will be halted as well. Because the FEIS and draft ROD have been rescinded, the Forest cannot move forward with the transfer of title at this time. In accordance with the statute, the Forest intends to transfer title within 60 days after the future FEIS is published.

The project is proposed on Oak Flat, a site sacred to numerous Federally Recognized Tribes in the Southwest. The Department is taking this step to provide an opportunity for the agency to conduct a thorough review based on significant input received from collaborators, partners, and the public since these documents were released. The recent Presidential Memorandum on tribal consultation and strengthening nation to nation relationships counsels in favor of ensuring the Forest Service has complied with the environmental, cultural, and archaeological analyses required. USDA has concluded that additional time is necessary to fully understand concerns raised by Tribes and the public and the project’s impacts to these important resources and ensure the agency’s compliance with federal law. USDA and the Forest Service also understand that under federal law that the Forest Service has limited discretion related to protection of Oak Flat. Because the Resolution Copper Mine and Land Exchange Project was directed under the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, long term protection of the site will likely require an act of Congress. USDA and the Forest Service cannot give a precise length of time for completing the re-initiation of consultation but consultations such as this generally take several months.

Tonto Releases Final EIS, Draft Record of Decision
(as of Jan 15, 2021)

Thumbnail image of Final EIS document cover

Tonto National Forest (Tonto) officials released the final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) along with a draft Record of Decision (DROD) for the Resolution Copper Mine and Land Exchange Project on January 15, 2021.

At six volumes, the FEIS describes the potential environmental effects from two proposed actions:

  1. A general plan of operations for development of a large-scale underground copper mine by Resolution Copper Mining, LLC.
  2. A related, legislatively-mandated land exchange

The Tonto prepared the FEIS for use as the basis for all decisions under Federal law related to the proposed mine and the Resolution mine plan of operations and any related major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.

The document analyzes several alternatives to the proposed action submitted by Resolution Copper to the Tonto. The FEIS identifies Alternative 6 – Skunk Camp as the Preferred Alternative. It also identifies mitigation measures, both required and voluntary, that would minimize, reduce, or offset impacts from the proposed project.

The draft ROD explains the Tonto’s rationale and documents the Tonto’s decision to authorize uses of National Forest System (NFS) land by issuing a road use permit and special use authorizations for pipeline and power line corridors associated with the project.

The January 15 release of the FEIS and draft ROD triggers a 45-day objection period for interested parties who previously have submitted formal comments about the project.

Additionally, the Secretary of Agriculture will grant title of the Oak Flat Federal Parcel to Resolution Copper no more than 60 days after the final EIS is published (January 15) as legislatively-mandated in section 3003 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2015.

Administrative Review Opportunities

Thumbnail image of Draft Record of Decision document cover

The Tonto’s proposed decision to authorize the use of NFS land and roads is subject to predecisional objection pursuant to 36 CFR 218, Subparts A and B. Objections will be accepted only from those who previously submitted specific written comments regarding the proposed project during scoping or other designated opportunity for public comment in accordance with 36 CFR 218.5(a). Issues raised in objections must be based on previously submitted timely, specific written comments regarding the proposed project unless based on new information arising after the designated opportunities.

Objections must be filed not later than 45 days following the publication of the legal notice in the Arizona Capitol Times, the Tonto newspaper of record. Publication of the legal notice of the opportunity to object is expected to occur on or about January 15, 2021. Those wishing to object should not rely upon dates or timeframes provided by any other source. It is the objector’s responsibility to ensure evidence of timely receipt (36 CFR 218.9).

Objections, including attachments, must be addressed to the Reviewing Official, Regional Forester, filed via mail or express delivery to 333 Broadway Blvd SE, Albuquerque, NM, 87102; by facsimile to FAX: (505) 842-3800; or by email to objections-southwestern-regional-office@usda.gov.

An automated response will confirm the electronic objection has been received. If an automated response is not received, it is the sender’s responsibility to ensure timely filing by other means. Electronic objections must be submitted in MS Word, portable document format (PDF), or rich text format (RTF). The subject line for electronic submissions should contain Resolution Copper Project.

Additional guidelines for submitting an objection are described in Part 8 of the draft ROD.

The Tonto Forest Supervisor will not sign the final ROD until after conclusion of the predecisional objection process. Officials anticipate releasing the final ROD in summer 2021.

Email Address Created for Land Exchange Questions

The Southwestern Region Office of Lands and Minerals Management is overseeing and administering the land exchange and appraisal process which includes the 2,422-acre Oak Flat Federal Parcel. All questions about the land exchange and appraisal process should be emailed to SM.FS.rcexinfo@usda.gov

Programmatic Agreement Info

To comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the Tonto National Forest developed a Programmatic Agreement (PA) and included it in Volume 5, Appendix O of the final EIS. The PA was created in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the State Historic Preservation Office, tribes and other consulting parties. The PA contains an agreed upon process for identifying, evaluating and addressing adverse effects to historic properties associated with this undertaking.

To review Volume 5 and the PA, Download Vol 5 PDF, 27 MB.

Forest Service Point of Contact

John Scaggs
Tonto National Forest
john.scaggs@usda.gov

Apache Leap Special Management Area
Apache Leap SMA website