Resolution Copper, owned by Rio Tinto and BHP are being given carte blanche to destroy National Forest full of centuries-old oak trees and Native American sites.
Resolution Copper has over 150 wells listed on the ADWR well inventory. However, there is sparse information on the pumping from most of wells. Further, the “Other” category of 48 wells remains undefined. However, many of the “Other” category were drilled to 7,000 feet, so it is not likely that the wells are used to pump water.
Resolution Wells from Arizona Department of Water Resources Records
Non-exempt industrial wells (depths 1,000 to 6,000 ft) = 7
Exempt wells (exempt from record-keeping) = 2
Monitor wells = 94
“Other” wells = 48
Resolution’s water rights permits:
58-117402.0001 (Type 2 mineral extraction: Phoenix AMA) (2005 – 2012) = 505.5 af
58-130703.0001 (Type 2 mineral extraction: Phoenix AMA) (2005-2012) 0 af
59-524492.0003 (Dewatering permit: Phoenix AMA) = 6,899.71 af [Withdrawal authority allotment=5000 af; permit expiration date 9/20/2029]
73-534489.0500 (Water storage permit: Pinal AMA(2005-2012) 0 af
73-584466.1500 (Water storage permit)
73-569775.1600 (Water storage permit)
Resolution also has additional sources of water. During the reclamation efforts by Resolution at the old Magma smelter and mill site, they purchased water from Arizona Water Company, reported at a public meeting with the Superior Town Council to be some 200,000 gallons a month during their reclamation project at the old mill, smelter and tailings site. This source of water from the Florence Junction well field serves communities. What effect will it have on current users? In Arizona, there are statutes regarding transfers of water out of the service area, out of the sub-basin, and out of the Active Management Area AMA). The statutes that address transportation of groundwater in relation to AMAs are in 45-541 thru 45-545.
Resolution Copper states on its website:
We are planning prudently for the future water needs of our mining project. We have already purchased and banked excess Central Arizona Project (CAP) water to meet about half of our mining needs. [http://resolutioncopper.com/the-project/water-management]
Note that Resolution Copper is planning for the water needs of their mining project with no planning whatsoever for the future water levels in the region. Further, they have misstated their “banked” water, for that water has been delivered and used by the New Magma Irrigation District, as is stated on the Resolution website:
James [Almaas] is responsible for mine water treatment operations and our 27-mile-long pipeline from the company’s mine site to the Central Arizona Project (CAP) canal, where our treated mine water is blended and used for beneficial agricultural use. [emphasis added] http://resolutioncopper.com/about-us/
Resolution has water “credits” to pump groundwater from wherever they please (mining is exempt from the Groundwater Code in Arizona). What will this pumping mean to the public water supply in the North Florence well field where traditionally the former mine, Magma, had its supply wells? I have contacted Arizona Water Company, which furnishes water to Superior, with this question. To date, I have not received a reply.
The water situation in Arizona is in crisis. Arizona State is running a campaign for residents to conserve water:
http://wateruseitwisely.com/join-the-cause/contact.php. However, they don’t want anyone washing their driveway down, yet the officials do nothing about high water users like cotton and copper.
In addition to the misleading statement about their “banked” water, which has actually been used by Magma irrigation district, in 2007 Resolution also planned to ignore with the Clean Water Act by dumping two billion gallons of toxic water out of the old Magma Mine “shaft 9” into Queen Creek, which flowed through Superior and on further behind Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park. Fortunately, the Arboretum management objected and notified the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality was notified. ADEQ required Resolution Copper to obtain a discharge permit and purify the water. Even after treatment, the water still had to be mixed with other water to be of a quality to use on crops. That is to way when it comes to water, Resolution Copper officials do not seem to have a clear concept of Federal or Arizona water statutes.
As stated by Rio Tinto, a major hazard to Cave Block mining is “inrushes” of Water and Slurry or Mud. For the past four years, Resolution Copper has continuously been pumping water from Shaft 9 and the new Shaft 10. Water and mud is a danger for automated operations and there is water at Apache Leap. Resolution Copper is required to submit an annual report of water use (even though it is dewatering, the water goes to farm/ranch use in Pinal County) to the state Arizona Department Water Resources (ADWR) the volume of the water. With the low rainfall for the past year, the continuous pumping—24 hours a day—is now at 700 to 800 gallons per minute, but for four years the rate was at 2,000 gallons per minute. Following are the totals from ADWR records:
2009: 1697.00 AF = 552,837,323 gallons
2010: 2004.00 AF = 652,961,316 gallons
2011: 1912.00 AF = 622,985,048 gallons
2012: 1287.00 AF = 419,341,923 gallons
2013: 1532.00 AF = 499,204,386 gallons
2014: 1489.00 AF = 485,192,775 gallons
TOTAL 9,921 AF = 3,232,772,007,267 gallons or 3.2 trillion gallons of water pumped out of the local aquifer.
[Source: AzDeptWaterResources, Dewatering Permit No: 59-524492.0003: http://infoshare.azwater.gov/docushare/dsweb/HomePage]
There needs to be a complete modeling of the hydrology of the region and the impact on private wells in Superior region, including wells up to and including the town of Top of the World and private ranchers in the region. Resolution Copper needs to be proactive in analyzing the regional hydrology. There are Federal Regulations concerning depleting water in the National Forest (and any reserve of public lands).
When the United States reserves public land for uses such as Indian reservations, military reservations, national parks, forest, or monuments, it also implicitly reserves sufficient water to satisfy the purposes for which the reservation was created.
This mandate was established in 1908 by Winters v. United States. [http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/co/field_offices/denca/DENCA_Advisory_Council/extra_materials_for.Par.33214.File.dat/FedResWaterRights.pdf] Subsequent laws have watered down the original intent. However, in a case in 1999 in Arizona regarding water on BLM reservation land reaffirmed the Federal rights are still in tact. The presiding judge wrote, “The [Winter’s] doctrine applies not only to Indian reservations, but to other federal enclaves, such as national parks, forests, monuments, military bases, and wildlife preserves.”
The Federal rights to water in our public lands, including National Forests were reasserted again in the Gila River Adjudication in Arizona:
SUPREME COURT OF ARIZONA
195 Ariz. 411;989 P.2d 739;1999 Ariz.
From Opinion by Judge Noel A. Fidel:
The reserved water rights doctrine provides:
When the Federal Government withdraws its land from the public domain and reserves it for a federal purpose, the Government, by implication, reserves appurtenant water then unappropriated to the extent needed to accomplish the purpose of the reservation. In so doing the United States acquires a reserved right in unappropriated water which vests on the date of the reservation and is superior to the rights of future appropriators.
Cappaert v. United States, 426 U.S. 128, 138, 48 L. Ed. 2d 523, 96 S. Ct. 2062 (1976). The doctrine applies not only to Indian reservations, but to other federal enclaves, such as national parks, forests, monuments, military bases, and wildlife preserves.
Id. at 138-39;Arizona v. California, 373 U.S. 546, 601, 10 L. Ed. 2d 542, 83 S. Ct. 1468 (1963).
For additional information: http://www.g-a-l.info/Protection2.htm
Further, as noted above in Section III. Ramifications of having mile wide and deep crater in the area with corresponding waste piles from the diggings, the sump caused by subsidence will dewater the surrounding forests and private ranchers’ wells in the region and will serve as a catchment basin for the rainwater that would have been delivered to Devil’s Creek.
Since Resolution Copper has no Mining Plan of Operations, they have not assessed the potential regional water issues—but they are working on their own water supplies, the sources of which have not yet been disclosed.
In the January, 2000, U. S. Forest Service report: Water and the Forest Service, [http://www.stream.fs.fed.us/publications/PDFs/Water_and_FS.pdf] created by the FS National Headquarters (with taxpayers money) emphasizes the importance of forests for maintaining a viable, clean water supply. Certainly, the situation has not changed, only worsened, in thirteen years. The Forest Service is not living up to its own publicly-stated mission and goals–or well researched reports.
In early 2012, Elizabeth Bernays, Regents’ Professor Emeritus, University of Arizona, wrote an appeal regarding mining in southern Arizona that was signed by 333 members of the academic community—in U.S. and other countries. Many individuals are seriously concerned about the possibility of intensive mining in Arizona, where water is very short and precious, and biodiversity is unusually high. Take any acre in an Arizona National Forest and I guarantee, you will find more diversity in flora, fauna, reptiles and insects than any forest in any other state. The diversity never ceases to amaze me—and I have lived in wooded regions in Vermont, northern California, and the Sam Houston National Forest.
See letter: http://www.earthworksaction.org/files/publications/letter_with_professors.pdf
Destruction of our National Forests through purposeful operations that will destroy the vegetation, habitat and watershed forever is not an option for a healthy environment and healthy people. The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.
For a healthy environment
Forest Service states it honors a healthy environment
I implore you to help the Forest Service keep their promise to the public by protecting Oak Flat for the enjoyment of “future generations.”
For the “full monty” of this travesty, see: http://www.celebrate-earth.com/oak-flat-comments