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Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PASTOR of Arizona. First of all, I want to thank the gentleman from Arizona for the courtesy.

Mr. Chairman, this is an issue that I have been working on for probably the last 10 years. And one of the interests that I have on this issue is because I was born in and grew up in this copper triangle that we're talking about today.

It's a beautiful area, and at one time, copper was the industry for this Copper Triangle. Yet, over the past 20-25 years, many of the mines have shut down, and copper production has stopped in Arizona. So I have to tell you that my interest in this land exchange would be the possible economic development of this area.

I travel through this area because my mom still lives up in Miami, Arizona, where I was born and raised. I travel regularly, at least once a month, through these canyons. I can tell you that it's the most beautiful sight, about 85 miles east of Phoenix, where you can still see a fine, pristine environment with some of the most spectacular rock formations you'll ever see in this country. It's very beautiful, but it's also an area that has been hit by some hard times.

I grew up in a mining town, so I know what a mining town is. During the summers, while I was attending Arizona State University, I'd go to work in the mines. I worked in the leaching plant, the electrolytic plant, the leaching tanks, the ball mills, and the moly plant, so I have the experience of knowing this type of life. I know the economic boom that copper mining can bring to a community, but I also have experience with the adverse impact that copper mining can have, not only on the people who work there, but also on the environment. I have seen both sides.

It's with that interest that I have seen the evolution of this debate. At one time, even I sponsored a bill that would deal with the economic development of these mining towns--Superior, Globe-Miami, et cetera. The area that we're talking about being exchanged, is an area I know well. As a kid growing up, we used this area for a picnic site, and in some cases, when we didn't go to school, that's where we would have our impromptu picnics. So I know this area.

I have to tell you, with regard to the issue of jobs, as will be discussed, I guess ``a number of jobs'' is in the eye of the beholder. Mining has changed, and I know that it's a different type of mining now from the one I experienced. We can debate the number of jobs, but I will tell you that this will bring some economic development to these areas of the Copper Triangle. That I cannot deny. Yet the issue for me is at what price.

At what price do we bring this economic development without some protection to the environment and without some protection to an employee's rights?

There is no debate that this ore deposit has some of the richest ore bodies. Copper, gold, silver, molybdenum, and other rare metals will be mined here. It's one of the richest deposits of ore not only in North America but probably in this world. That's why Resolution Copper has maintained 8 years, 9 years, 10 years of trying to get this bill done, because they know how rich this deposit is.

So at what price do we pay for this economic boom?

Mr. Chairman, I will tell you of the differences I have with the sponsor of this bill. But, first, I have to thank him because Representative Gosar reached out very early, and we talked about this particular bill. He has improved the bill I sponsored, but I feel that he has not gone far enough.

This bill would be highly improved if the amendment offered today that gives an 8 percent royalty fee on the extraction of the ore would be adopted, making the bill more fair to the American public. If that amendment is adopted, obviously, it will be very difficult to oppose this bill; but if the amendment is not adopted, then, Mr. Chairman, the American public will be paying too high a price for the economic development of the Copper Triangle. The only enrichment will be for those copper companies that are foreign based.


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