Thursday, September 23, 2021 5:17 am

How the House reconciliation bill scraps Resolution Copper mine in Oak Flat

Oak Flat in 2020. Photo by Elias Butler Photography | Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

(Disclosure: Rose Law Group represents Resolution Copper.)

By Jacob Fischler | AZ Capitol Times

Proposals targeting specific areas for conservation in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and federal waters off Louisiana’s coast made their way into the gigantic budget reconciliation bill that Democrats are moving through Congress.

The portion of the $3.5 trillion package approved on a party-line vote by the House Natural Resources Committee last week includes nationwide measures meant to combat the climate crisis by limiting oil and gas drilling, improving coastal resilience, adding offshore wind and establishing a national Civilian Climate Corps.

But that bill also sought to settle a handful of issues that are more local in scope—several of them aimed at reining in oil and gas development. Below are four of the most significant local matters in the House Natural Resources title of the budget bill.

Oak Flat withdrawal (Arizona)

The bill includes a provision that reverses a land swap from the federal government to private copper mining interests in Oak Flat, an area within Arizona’s Tonto National Forest.

A provision in the 2015 national defense authorization law provided more than 2,000 acres of Oak Flat to Resolution Copper, a joint venture of mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP. The company has not started mining while a federal environmental review has been ongoing.

The San Carlos Apache Tribe and local activists oppose mining in the area, expecting that it would destroy areas of significance to Native American communities and popular recreation areas, including the cliff faces known as Apache Leap.  

House Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva, (D-Ariz.), has been working to undo the deal since its adoption. 

The bill would also protect about 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon that has been targeted for uranium mining.

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