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 initiates a 90-day public comment period – from August 10 through November 7, 2019. As the lead agency for this project, the Tonto National Forest invites interested parties to comment on the environmental review and analysis findings for the operation of the proposed underground copper mine; the connected, Congressionally-mandated land exchange; and related project-specific forest plan amendments. After the comment period, the Forest Service will review and respond to comments it receives. This information will be included in an appendix to the Final EIS.
The Forest Service will then finalize the EIS and issue a draft Record of Decision (ROD), which will document the alternative selected for the mine General Plan of Operations and the necessary project-specific forest plan amendments. The Forest Service projects this to occur in summer 2020. This draft ROD will be subject to an administrative review process (also known as the objection process), pursuant to 36 CFR part 218. Upon completion of the objection process, a final ROD will be issued, anticipated to occur in winter 2020/2021. The Land Exchange will be fully executed no later than 60 days after the release of the Final EIS.