For the first time since efforts began in 2005 to try and get Congressional approval of the Oak Flat land swap east of Superior for the new proposed 40-year Resolution Copper mine, a former top San Carlos Apache tribal leader has come forward urging the passage of the latest land exchange bill. He is Harrison Talgo who served in the past on the San Carlos Apache Tribal Council for some 16 years.
Talgo, who is a Vietnam veteran, was also the tribal chairman when the council built the Apache Gold Casino back in 1993 creating several hundred jobs on the reservation.
In speaking Tuesday back in Washington, D.C. before the House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, he urged approval of Representative Paul Gosar’s revived land exchange bill immediately so this high tech underground mine could get started and people at San Carlos as well as the surrounding mining communities of Globe-Miami and Superior can go to work.
San Carlos has one of the highest unemployment rates in the United States at more than 70 percent.
Talgo remarked, “I know the tribal leadership does not share my position. I have tried very hard to understand why they oppose this project when we are in such desperate need of jobs and industry. I believe that traditional Apache values are not mutually exclusive with economic development.
“We are one of the poorest Indian tribes in the nation. Seven in 10 eligible workers in the tribe are unemployed. Almost 80 percent of our people live in poverty. Alcoholism and drug use are rampant and suicide rates are high. The average male here has a life expectancy of 54 years, about 20 years shorter than the average American male.”
Talgo further told the House panel, “Without jobs, our children are forced to move to neighboring communities or into the city to find work. Not many of them return.With each passing generation, a piece of Apache identity and culture is lost. Those who stay on the reservation face a bleak future. Only education and training and opportunities for good-paying jobs can improve that picture. Even though our nearest reservation boundary is about 20 miles away from the Resolution project and our nearest community is almost 40 miles away by highway, that is a reasonable distance to travel for a job, especially when you consider the high wages and benefits that mining jobs provide. There also are opportunities for San Carlos residents to start businesses much closer to home that will supply and service a large mining operation like Resolution Copper.”
“The issue today is not about our reservation land, our sovereignty, our heritage, our self respect...these are not for sale. This is about putting our people....a lot of people to work. I believe economic development should be our leadership’s top priority,” Talgo remarked. “I respect the San Carlos Tribal council’s desire to protect sites that have culture or historical significance. I want that, too. But, Oak Flat is a long way from us, and I believe strongly that it is possible for our traditional values to co-exist with economic progress. In fact I don’t believe one can’t survive without the other. Economic progress and prosperity leads to a better standard of living, better health, better services and better education.”
The session went another direction when a key official of President Obama’s Administration, Mary Wagner, Associate Chief of the U.S. Forest Service said the Department of Agriculture could not “support the Bill as written.” The principal concern is the Bill would require the U.S. Forest Service to prepare an environment review document under the National Environmental Protection Act ( NEPA ) after the exchange is completed. Also of concern is the fact the Bill would immediately authorize mining exploration activities under an area that is sacred to the San Carlos Apache Tribe without a review or study.
“This Bill should be amended to require the preparation of an environmental impact statement before the land exchange is completed,” said Wagner. She further pointed out the proposed legislation says it is Congressional intent that the exchange be completed in one year.
“Based on our experience with complex land exchanges, this is an insufficient amount of time to complete the exchange.”
San Carlos Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler was not among the scheduled speakers yesterday. In fact, no one from the Globe-Miami area spoke before the House panel. No one from the Globe-Miami Chamber of Commerce, the Gila County Board of Supervisors, or the local Economic Development Corporation, or the City of Globe took part in this critical hearing for the development of this huge 7,000 foot deep underground mine 17 miles west of us. Apparently, no one from any of these Globe-Miami groups even submitted any updated briefs or statements on Congressman Gosar’s new H.R. 1904 Bill to the U.S. House subcommittee for review and consideration.
Roger Featherstone, Director of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition in Tucson testified in opposition of the exchange. So did Shan Lewis, president of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona at Phoenix and Vice Chairman of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. Both of these organizations have been regular opponents of the new mine raising various environmental and Native American issues about the Resolution Copper project over the past several years.
Michael O. Hing, Mayor of the Town of Superior, testified he believed the Resolution Copper Land Exchange represents an unprecedented opportunity to improve the long-term economic vitality of his community, the local counties, the state, and the region. “It is one thing to talk about the creation of new jobs and economic opportunity, and quite another to actually take action, like H. R. 1904 does. That will expedite the creation of those jobs and result in large increases in local, state and federal tax revenues,” said Hing.
“I am pleased to hear that Resolution Copper has been banking water and will have secured the entire water supply for the life of the project before the first ounce of copper comes out of the ground,” remarked Pinal County Supervisor Bryan Martyn who appeared before the subcommittee. “Additionally, Resolution Copper has already spent literally millions of dollars on water studies in the area to date. These studies have indicated that there will be no impact on the water supply of Superior, Globe-Miami, San Carlos or any other community. It is because of this that I am certain that the future of the regional water supply is secure,” Martyn said.
A new economic study on the proposed Resolution Mine released this week says the estimated cost of developing this mine has now been increased from $4 billion to $6 billion. Jon Cherry, vice president of Resolution Copper, said at Tuesday’s hearing this study from Pollack and Associates shows the new mine will eventually create over 3,700 jobs related to mining, 1,400 of these would be high paying mining jobs created in the future along with more than 2,300 indirect mining employment jobs further down the line.
Cherry notes during Superior-based Resolution Copper’s current engineering studies, approximately 100 Resolution employees will have full-time jobs and there would be more than 400 contractors on the site on a daily basis. The company official said the new study also shows the Resolution Project would have a $62 billion life of the impact from mining and a $960 million average annual impact from mining. This new huge copper mine would also be paying $19 billion in estimated federal, state and local taxes over the life of the Resolution project.