The Arizona State Land Department this month sold nearly 17,000 acres of pristine desert land to Freeport-McMoRan, a Phoenix-based international mining company, which plans to use the property to store waste from its Bagdad copper mine.
…It is nearly seven times the size of a pending land acquisition by a British-Australian company for a mining operation near Superior. That project, Resolution Copper, would involve extracting copper from beneath Oak Flat, an area that Native American opponents consider sacred, and until a land swap, was protected from mining.
…”That is habitat that will be lost for the rest of our lives and probably hundreds of years into the future, if not forever,” Trudeau said. “This is a tremendous impact of almost unprecedented scale in Arizona.”
As with most large mining operations, Freeport-McMoRan’s waste storage proposal also raises concerns of water contamination. The Bagdad area, which is about 65 miles west of Prescott, sits close to several watersheds, including for the Santa Maria River, the Big Sandy River, and the Bill Williams River.
Freeport-McMoRan has a track record of water contamination.
…And a recent rollback of Clean Water Act regulations by President Trump’s administration removed protections for smaller bodies of water, including those found in the Bagdad-area property, like seasonal rivers, groundwater, and “ephemeral streams” that only flow after rain. According to Trudeau, the Trump decision took away environmentalists’ sole avenue for challenging Freeport-McMoRan’s proposed tailings site.