Frequently Asked Questions

This section is devoted to answering questions about our company and the Resolution Copper Project. For easy reference, we have divided these questions and answers by topic area as follows:


Our Business


The Land Exchange


Our Mining Approach and Environmental Concerns


Our Approach to Water Management


The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Process


Sustainable Development Reporting


Our Business

What is the Resolution Copper Project?

The Resolution Copper Project, managed by Resolution Copper Company (RCC), is located east of Superior, Arizona, in an area known as the Copper Triangle. Exploration indicates what may be one of the largest copper resources ever found in North America and possibly worldwide.

Currently, the project is in the pre-feasibility or evaluation phase. This phase allows us to better define and test the ore body, evaluate how to proceed in reaching the deposit, and estimate the cost and resources required to move forward.

What is the size and content of the ore body?

In March 2010 the company reported an inferred resource* of 1.624 billion tons at a grade of 1.47 percent copper and 0.037 percent molybdenum. However, Resolution Copper has not declared a formal ore reserve and does not refer to the mineralization as an “ore body” as yet. The term “ore reserve” is a technical and legal term that would require significantly more core drilling and engineering studies than have been completed to date at the project. The additional drilling and engineering studies are part of the ongoing pre-feasibility studies.

(*An inferred resource assumes there is a continuous mineralized body present based on geological evidence, however, the actual mass of the mineralization is still unproven.)

Who is Resolution Copper Mining, and how is the Resolution Copper Project structured and managed?

Resolution Copper Mining (RCM) is a limited liability company owned by Resolution Copper Company (55 percent), a Rio Tinto Plc. subsidiary, and BHP Copper, Inc. (45 percent), a BHP Billiton Ltd. subsidiary. Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are ranked among the largest mining companies in the world. Resolution Copper Company is manager of Resolution Copper Mining.

More information about Rio Tinto is available at www.riotinto.com. Additional information on BHP Billiton can be found at www.bhpbilliton.com.

How much will be invested in the Resolution Copper Project?

Nearly a billion dollars has been invested in the Resolution Copper Project so far. If the mine is to be developed, that figure will grow to more than $5 billion. If evaluation and feasibility studies are successful, and the land exchange is completed, production is likely to begin by 2021.

What are the anticipated economic and fiscal impacts of the project?

Total economic impact of the multi-decade project in the state of Arizona is estimated to be $61.4 billion. During the peak years of mine production, projected peak annual economic impact on the state of Arizona is expected to be $1 billion. In terms of fiscal impact, the project is estimated to generate total federal, state, county and local tax revenue of nearly $20 billion. Read more about the economic impact of the project in the Economic Impact Study.

What impact will Resolution Copper have as an employer?

If our mine is developed, the size of the ore body indicates that we will be in active production for more than five decades. During this time, we expect to employ a peak of 1,400 people on-site during normal operations. Including indirect and induced jobs, the annual mine operations are initially expected to account for 3,700 total jobs and $220.5 million in annual wages.

Mine workforce levels vary greatly with each stage of the mining process. We’re currently conducting pre-feasibility studies, when major fact-finding and investigative fieldwork occurs. During this phase, we will employ more than 500 people. Provided pre-feasibility and feasibility studies are successful, construction will begin 2015 and will require an average of 3,000 employees annually.

How is Resolution Copper supporting and interacting with the local community?

Resolution Copper’s approach is to support local visions for economic development and social stability in the communities of Superior and surrounding areas. Our goal is to work with the community on specific activities that will help jump-start economic resurgence and, over the long term, to become a partner in ensuring the area’s long-term sustainability.

We interacting with communities in many ways. We work with local committees that advise us on important issues surrounding mine development; make strategic philanthropic contributions; and partner with regional and state environmental and educational organizations to organize programs to benefit the local community, the Copper Triangle region and the state of Arizona. Education partnerships include ASU Life Sciences, Rodel Foundation (MAC-Ro initiative) and AZFirst Robotics.


The Land Exchange

Why does the company need to conduct a land exchange?

Before the mine can be developed, our company needs to study the size and quality of the copper ore body, assess the safest and most efficient mining approach, and evaluate all associated costs. We will invest nearly $1 billion to complete these studies. To justify this investment, we need to own and manage the surface lands above the mine and in the immediate surrounding area. The passage of the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act will accomplish this goal. You can learn more about the land exchange, including an overview of the exchange parcels, here.

Why does the company need the land exchange now, rather than waiting until the feasibility study has been completed?

In order for Resolution Copper to complete our feasibility study and make a final decision about how to develop the mine, we need access to an approximately 760-acre tract that includes the Oak Flat campground. An executive order precludes the company from drilling exploratory holes on or under the Oak Flat campground while it is under public ownership. Information collected from the drilling will provide the company with data necessary to decide whether and how the mine will be constructed.

What is the status of the land exchange bill?

The Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2011 is pending. The most recent version of the bill passed the House of Representatives in October of 2011. The bill is currently waiting for action in the Senate.

How were the exchange parcels selected?

We consulted with various nongovernment organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society, the Sonoran Institute, the Trust for Public Land, the Superstition Area Land Trust and the United States Forest Service to identify properties with recognized conservation values and important ecological benefits throughout the State. Using this input, we acquired more than 5,300 acres of non-federal lands that will benefit the region environmentally, recreationally and economically. See the Land Exchange Parcel Overview.

Will access to Oak Flat be discontinued as a result of the land exchange?

Oak Flat will continue to be available as long as it is safe to do so. Resolution Copper continues to work with recreational parties to identify opportunities for longer-term use and to ensure that the Oak Flat area remains accessible as long as possible.

Will Resolution Copper protect Apache Leap?

Yes. We will do this not only through rigorous monitoring of our underground mining operations, but also by working collaboratively with appropriate parties to ensure its long-term protection. Resolution Copper also has a practical business interest in protecting Apache Leap.

The infrastructure for our mine will be located between the ore body and Apache Leap. This means that our mining infrastructure would be affected and our mining operations compromised well before having any effect on Apache Leap.

Resolution Copper owns private lands around the south end of Apache Leap. The company has determined that adding its acreage to the exchange bill would best serve the public interest. The most recent versions of the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act combine public and private lands, including 110 acres of Resolution Copper Mining land, to ensure that all of Apache Leap will remain under the ownership of the federal government, managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

What are you doing to address the concerns of Native Americans?

We are doing our best to respect the sovereignty and to be sensitive to the needs of all Native American tribes. Certain tribes have made it clear that they would like to have discussions on a government-to-government basis. Our company remains hopeful they will be willing to have a direct dialogue with us in the near future.


Our Mining Approach and Environmental Concerns

What mining method will you use?

The project will be completely underground, with no open pits and limited waste rock (piles of rock that do not contain valuable minerals). It will employ state-of-the-art technology, and will be developed using a method known as panel caving. Panel caving is a variation of the block-caving technique that divides large ore bodies into strips or “panels” so that the ore can be removed in a safe, efficient manner.

What is block caving?

Block caving is an efficient mining technique that uses gravity to extract ore. Below the ore body, tunnels are developed which cause rock in the ore body to fall into a series of collection points. Loaders collect the mineral-bearing ore and transport it to an underground crusher, then large hoists in the shafts are used to raise the crushed ore to the surface for processing. Learn more about the process by watching this video.

Where are you putting the smelter?

We are not planning to construct a smelter. However, there may be an opportunity to modernize an existing smelter somewhere in the region. If this were to occur, the smelter would conform to the highest environmental standards as represented by Rio Tinto’s Kennecott smelter in Salt Lake City.

How will you address environmental concerns?

Global Certification:
ISO 14001 is a recognized global standard for environmental excellence, which has been established by The International Organization for Standardization (ISO). We have established an ISO 14001-compliant Environmental Management System (EMS), which must be re-certified every three years, in order to control and continually improve our work with respect to the environment. ISO 14001 certification also includes regular internal and third-party audits to ensure that we are complying with company, legal and government obligations and requirements related to environmental care.

Land:
We have made a multi-year, multi-million dollar commitment to clean up lands in and around Superior that have been affected by almost 100 years of mining activity. The goals of this project are to protect people and the environment from the legacy-mining residue, to restore natural vegetation, and to re-establish the area for useful purposes. We anticipate that there will be surface subsidence and cracking above the mine area, and it is likely there will be surface cracking in the campground tract, particularly the southwest part. It is difficult to say how much surface impact there will be until we have defined the boundaries for the mine by drilling and have completed our feasibility studies.

Water:
About 2 billion gallons of water had to be removed from the Magma Mine, and 300 million gallons of new inflow has to be managed each year. This water is brought to the surface, treated and transported 27 miles to farmers in the New Magma Irrigation and Drainage District. The water is blended with Central Arizona Project water and irrigates about 5,000 acres of cropland.

What is your plan for the containment or treatment of future tailings?

During the pre-feasibility phase of the project, we are exploring several options for disposal of our tailings. No decision for a tailings facility has been made at this time. Studies are ongoing and we continue to explore our options. During this process, we are examining two possible sites for tailings disposal: a greenfield site on 12 sections of land on the far northern end of what’s known as Superstition Vistas, and a brownfield location known as the Pinto Valley mine in Gila County. As part of the investigations, the hydrological, environmental and engineering aspects are being investigated.

How is Resolution Copper going to mill the ore?

We’ll use a conventional copper concentrator process and design, similar to operations at ASARCO’s Ray Mine, Kennecott Utah Copper’s Bingham Canyon Mine, Freeport-McMoRan’s Bagdad Mine and other copper concentrators. The process will include grinding the ore to a fine particle size to expose (liberate) the copper mineral, then recovering the copper using flotation. A copper concentrate will be produced and transported to smelters for producing a final copper metal.


Our Approach to Water Management

How much water is the project going to consume?

We estimate that our water use at full production will be between 17,000 and 20,000 acre-feet per year. Resolution Copper is highly sensitive to the importance of water as a scarce resource and is committed to its efficient use from sustainable sources. We are currently purchasing and banking Central Arizona Project (CAP) water with two irrigation districts, the Hohokam Irrigation and Drainage District and the New Magma Irrigation and Drainage District. Resolution Copper is exploring other options for long-term water supply, and plans to use water-saving devices and to recycle water in order to minimize our total fresh-water consumption.

How was the water discharged from No. 9 shaft put to use?

To prepare for shaft sinking and further exploration of the mining site, it was first necessary to remove the groundwater that had accumulated in the existing mine shaft after previous mining operations ceased. Resolution Copper constructed a water-treatment facility to prepare the water in the old mine facilities. Watch the video.

The water extracted from the mine is treated and transported through a 27-mile pipeline from Superior to Magma Junction. The New Magma Irrigation and Drainage District combines this water with Central Arizona Project (CAP) water for use by farmers to irrigate their crops. (CAP delivers renewable water from the Colorado River by canal to central and southern Arizona so that surface water, rather than groundwater, can be used for agricultural, municipal and industrial uses.)

Will water seep into the mine?

About 300 million gallons of new inflow will have to be managed each year. This water will be brought to the surface, treated and transported 27 miles to farmers in the New Magma Irrigation and Drainage District. The water will be blended with Central Arizona Project water and will be used to irrigate about 5,000 acres of cropland.


The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Process

What is an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)? Who manages it?

The NEPA Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process is led by a federal agency. The U.S. Forest Service will be in charge, and in our case, other agencies and stakeholders will participate. The government is likely to hire independent experts to carry out the EIS and to identify the effects and management plans of various alternative mining and support operations.

Is it necessary for the company to complete a NEPA EIS?

In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) or Environmental Assessments are required for federal actions affecting federal lands. At this time, all of the alternatives being considered for mining and support facilities would require such federal actions.

Is Resolution Copper currently completing an EIS?

No, the Resolution Copper Project is in its pre-feasibility stage and Resolution Copper is not yet completing an EIS. We are, however, collecting information that will contribute to the NEPA EIS processUnder the NEPA process, Resolution Copper will submit a draft Plan of Operations to the United States Forest Service. Costs associated with this process are borne by Resolution Copper.

In addition to complying with the NEPA process, we also are committed to completing a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which is an internal Rio Tinto requirement. We are in the process of conducting the baseline work needed to identify all potential environmental impacts of our mining operations.

Does the public have a voice in this process? How do I make my voice heard?

Resolution Copper has established ongoing opportunities for public comment on our environmental studies through community committees, workshops, public opinion surveys, media outreach and other forums. These opportunities will continue throughout each phase of the project, from pre-feasibility through the NEPA EIS, to construction and full operation of the mine. Our studies are publicly available through the EIS process.


Sustainable Development Reporting

Why do we do a Sustainable Development Report? Is it available to the public?

As a company, we support and adhere to the principles of sustainable development. This means we work to ensure that our actions have social, environmental and economic value that will last well beyond the life of the mine we seek to develop and operate.

We produce an annual Sustainable Development Report that summarizes Resolution Copper Mining’s priorities, past year’s performance, and specific goals and targets for the coming year. You can access our Sustainable Development Report here.