Resolution Copper Project & Community Working Group
The Community Working Group (CWG) was formed in response to the proposed Resolution Copper Project. The Resolution Copper deposit is one of the largest undeveloped copper deposits in the world, with an estimated copper resource of 1.7 billion metric tons at an average grade of 1.52 percent copper. The project is in Superior, Arizona, in an area known as the Copper Triangle because of its 150-year history of mining. To pursue this highly valuable mineral resource, the Resolution Copper Company was established as a partnership between Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, two of the world’s leading mining companies.
Resolution Copper History
Developing a mining project is a long, complex, and expensive process. It’s been nearly two decades since the discovery of the Resolution Copper deposit. Communities in the Copper Triangle have grown up around mining and have been largely dependent on this business for their livelihoods. Even so, their long history with mining has shown them that the industry is subject to “boom/bust” cycles, and they have suffered economic downturns from mine closures over the years as well as the environmental consequences, contamination, and health effects of poor or unregulated historic mining activities. Consequently, as Resolution Copper Company developed its plans, it faced a community that was both skeptical and divided in its willingness to accept a new, huge, and impactful mine in its midst.
Community Working Group Membership
In 2012, Resolution Copper sought a way to better understand the concerns of the community and establish more open and direct lines of communication for accurate information with the diverse stakeholders in this project. The Community Working Group was organized to begin these conversations. The first few CWG members were initially recruited by the facilitator, starting with a citizen who most vocally opposed the project, and the group has expanded over the years to include representatives of many perspectives and most Copper Triangle communities. Membership, operating principles, meeting agendas and speakers are decided by consensus of the group.
The CWG has met about monthly since 2013. Signage and news releases publicize meetings and agendas and face-to-face meetings have been open and attended by the general public. (Since March 2020, meetings have been held virtually, which hasn’t allowed public attendance, but the group hopes to get back to in-person meetings with public attendance as soon as COVID restrictions allow.) Group size has typically ranged from between 17 and 25 members, with many attending since the beginning. Their work includes research and deliberation about all aspects of mining and related impacts, making recommendations about many aspects of the project, and identifying and discussing community issues. They’ve invited numerous independent technical, regulatory, and legal experts to provide objective perspectives.
Since its initial task of helping Resolution identify a preferred mine tailings disposal site, the CWG has undertaken special projects, including development of a comprehensive multi-use regional trail plan to promote outdoor recreation and economic development, proposals for preserving community heritage and historic resources, developing community investment strategies, reviewing and weighing in on every phase of the federal environmental studies and mitigation measures for the project, and developing and managing an independent community groundwater quality monitoring program. CWG special-issue subcommittees include additional community members, regulators, experts, and interests dealing with specific topics of concern.
The CWG has become a recognized and respected authority on the Resolution Copper Project and a convener of community conversations on a variety of tough issues. As a gateway to the community, Resolution routinely consults with them when making decisions.
Since its initial collaboration with the CWG for tailings site selection, Resolution has worked – and intends to continue working – with the community in planning, permitting, operating, and closing the new mine, a process that will likely last more than 60 years.
Details of the Resolution Copper Project can be found at the company’s website and in the environmental analysis conducted by the Tonto National Forest for the Project Overview.