The Tonto National Forest (TNF) is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate and disclose the potential environmental effects from: (1) Approval of the “General Plan of Operations” (GPO) submitted by Resolution Copper Mining, LLC (Resolution Copper), for operations on National Forest System (NFS) land associated with a proposed large-scale mine; (2) the exchange of land between Resolution Copper and the United States; and (3) amendments to the Tonto National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (forest plan) (1985, as amended).
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The proposed action is to approve the proposed GPO as submitted by Resolution Copper and to complete the land exchange as directed by Congress under Section 3003 of the NDAA. As proposed in the GPO, the Resolution Copper mine would affect federal, state, and private lands. The proposed action by the Forest Service would only approve mining operations on NFS lands, because the Forest Service does not have jurisdiction to regulate mining operations that occur on private or state land. However, the EIS will consider and disclose environmental effects that would occur on federal, private, and state lands associated with the proposed mine and the land exchange. Connected actions related to the GPO and amendment of the forest plan will also be analyzed. Impacts of reasonably foreseeable actions in the project area will be considered in combination with the impacts of the project to estimate the potential cumulative impacts of project implementation.
Substantial mining activities described in the GPO would affect a 2,422-acre parcel of land known generally as the “Oak Flat” parcel. Section 3003 of the NDAA directs the conveyance of the Oak Flat parcel to Resolution Copper. In exchange for the Oak Flat parcel, Resolution Copper would transfer eight parcels located throughout Arizona, totaling 5,344 acres, to the United States. The Forest Service will not regulate mining activities on the Oak Flat parcel, which is to be conveyed to Resolution Copper, because it will be private land. The Forest Service will need to approve a plan of operations only for related operations that are proposed on NFS land outside of the Oak Flat parcel. The following sections provide additional information regarding the proposed mining operations and the land exchange.