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Hearing of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources - Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act


Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today delivered the following testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in support of the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act, which would facilitate a land exchange that will ultimately protect 5,000 acres of environmentally sensitive lands throughout Arizona while allowing for the Resolution Copper Project to develop the third largest copper ore body in the world:

"Thank you Mr. Chairman and first of all I'd like to thank you for all the efforts you've made on behalf of trying to see this very important issue come to fruition. If in my statement and Senator Kyl's statement, if we show a little frustration I think it would be understandable, because we have been at this issue for some time. As you know, the bill would facilitate a complex land exchange that will ultimately protect 5,000 acres of environmentally sensitive lands throughout Arizona while allowing for the Resolution Copper Project to develop the third largest copper ore body in the world -- the third largest in the world.

"It would employ 3,700 Americans.

"It would produce 25 percent of U.S. copper supply.

"It generates $61 billion in economic growth.

"It would provide $20 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue.

"We can get copper from this mine or we can import if from overseas. There will be a continued demand for copper in our economy.

"My colleague, Senator Kyl, and I first introduced this bill in 2005 -- seven years ago. Today marks the bill's sixth hearing before a Congressional Committee. At every hearing, the project's tremendous economic and environmental values are reaffirmed, and yet at each hearing we see the same agitators trotted out to play the tired role of the industry obstructionist. This vocal minority is so philosophically opposed to any mining in Arizona that they are willing to throw away the future of young families along with the best hope for long-term prosperity in the Town of Superior, Arizona, and on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, where, Mr. Chairman, unemployment hovers around 50 percent.

"Unfortunately, today's testimony by the Administration includes no meaningful recognition of the mine's national importance aside from passively mentioning, quote, "potential economic and employment benefits.' Shame on the Administration for that kind of statement when we have unemployment rife throughout my state, when people are hurting and homes are underwater. And the only mention in their long statement will be, quote, "potential economic and employment benefits.' The disconnect between Washington Democrats and facts on the ground could never be more apparent than in the Administration's statement today.

"Instead, the Administration's testimony feeds unsubstantiated claims that the mine imminently threatens the area's environment quality and cultural resources. This Committee has spent years analyzing, discussing, and evaluating this land exchange. We've had representatives of the Administration, including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, visit the proposed mine site. The Forest Service began conducting preliminary evaluations of the mine area as far back as 2004. The Resolution Copper Company has invested $750 million to collect engineering data to develop its Mine Plan of Operation which is now nearly complete. And yet no "compromise' is acceptable to the opponents who continue to demand more tribal consultation and more environmental study.

"Let me say a word about tribal consultation. You're going to have a witness here from the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona. He won't mention that despite Senator Kyl's and my constant urging that the San Carlos Apache Tribe just sit down -- just listen -- to Resolution Copper, they refuse to do it. They refuse to sit down and at least listen and let the copper company make a presentation. And yet they will urge "tribal consultation.' Well, it's not fair and it's not right to the poorest part of my home state of Arizona that we can't move forward with what will not only help that part of our state, but also the United States of America.

"So, I want to point out again that the San Carlos Apache Tribe have never met with Resolution Copper to learn about the project or discuss their cultural concerns. That's not what America is supposed to be all about. I respect tribal sovereignty. I don't respect people who refuse to sit down and at least listen to something that could help the tribe itself enormously economically. So the tribal leaders of the San Carlos Apache obviously care more about some issues than they do about the prospect of employment for their tribal members, which as I mentioned is incredibly high, not to mention the problems of drug abuse, alcohol, and all the other things that plague their reservation because of their failure to have any kind of viable economy.

"On multiple occasions, I've personally asked the Chairman of the Tribe to be briefed on the project and to engage in constructive dialogue, and each time my request and Senator Kyl's request have been declined.

"So are we to believe that the mining opponents genuinely want tribal consultation? Are we to assume that in light of the Keystone Pipeline issue, this Administration won't delay or ultimately reject the project in the name of more study and more tribal input? The Administration's apathetic view of the mine is disgraceful and frustrating, and should trouble every member of this body who has land exchange legislation pending before this Committee.

"Mr. Chairman, it's time for Congress to put an end to these delays. The people in my state are hurting and this mine is an economic opportunity that shouldn't be squandered. Mr. Chairman, I wish to submit for the record several resolutions and letters of support for this land exchange issued from dozens of local governments and officials, from the Governor of Arizona to the Mayor of Superior, Arizona, and other towns in the area.

"And again I apologize, Mr. Chairman, for any emotion that I have displayed in this, but I would ask the Chairman to go to Superior, Arizona, where half of the homes are shut down, where the businesses aren't functioning, where unemployment is close to 50 percent. All these people want is a chance to work and an opportunity to have a better life. This bureaucracy that you will hear from and this Indian tribe is preventing them from having that opportunity. I'm not asking them to agree. I'm just asking them to sit down and listen to what we and the Resolution Copper Company have to say.

"Thank you Mr. Chairman."

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