#50 Arizona Land Swap Could Damage Cultural Resources

The headline from Science, "Breaking News: Archaeology Groups Oppose Proposed Arizona Land Swap".

An offshoot of the international mining firm Rio Tinto is trying to gain 2400 acres of land south of Phoenix to mine a supposed deposit of high quality copper.  Read this carefully.  They aren't leasing federal land.  They are trading federal land for private land that would become federal.  Sneaky.

The proposal (H.R. 1904) would swap U.S. Forest Service land about 70 miles south of Phoenix for an array of privately owned lands elsewhere in the state. Under the arrangement, initially floated in 2005, Resolution Copper Co., an offshoot of global mining leader Rio Tinto (Resolution Copper), would get about 2400 acres of land believed to sit atop a vast deposit of high-quality copper. The federal government would get about 5300 acres in exchange, including 3000 acres of ecologically important land along the lower San Pedro River.

On the surface it looks like the American people would gain 2900 acres of land and loose nothing.  In reality, the mining company has found a way around the need to obtain an Environmental Impact Statement.  From what I can tell they would not be required to assess the archaeological resources, the biological resources, or any other resources.  Companies can do whatever they want on private land.  A closer look at this case could reveal that the mine has been buying up land for years in anticipation of this deal.

I hope the SAA and the other groups that are opposing this deal get their voices heard.  Deals like this would open the door for other mines to do the same and cultural resources as we know them would disappear.

Written in Sparks, Nevada


2008  The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology (iPad App), Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.   Developed by Handmark, Inc.

Environmental Impact Statement A process that since the mid 1970s has been developed and increasingly applied to large and medium-sized development proposals whereby technical studies are undertaken in order to predict the likely impact that the scheme will have on the local, regional, and global environment.  The aim is to better inform the decision-making process, allow alternative proposals to be compared, and where appropriate, promote the development of acceptable mitigation measures.  EIA was first applied widely in the USA; it was made a legal requirement for certain types of scheme in Europe following a European Community Directive issued in 1985.  Archaeological remains are one of the resources that can be included in the scope of an EIA where it is believed that such things might be significantly affected by a proposed project.  Also known as Environmental Assessment.