Arizona's Copper Mining Challenges

By Shihoko Goto — Exclusive to Copper Investing News

Arizona Copper Mining ChallengesThere is a good reason why the world's biggest publicly-traded copper mining group is based in the heart of Arizona. The state is rich in the red metal, and the commodities market plays a crucial role in the region's economy. But for Arizona to retain its prominent position in the industry, and indeed for the United States to remain a significant producer of the metal, the way that state legislature and national regulations move forward on land and mining rights will be critical.

There is no doubt that copper mining is a big business in Arizona, supporting over 62,000 jobs and contributing about $7.5 billion to the state's GDP, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. With over 60 percent of all copper produced in the US coming from the Grand Canyon state, it is no surprise that Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE: FCX) is headquartered in the state capital of Phoenix. Moreover, there have been calls from legislators and the private sector alike to tap further into the state's natural resources, especially amid a growing rallying cry to make the nation as a whole less dependent on foreign imports.

“We can do more to meet our domestic mineral needs and provide a reliable chain of supply to American manufacturers and technology providers. As emerging economies embrace new technologies and build infrastructure, the demand for minerals, especially copper, continues to increase here and abroad,” stated Arizona Republican Senator Al Melvin. “Overreliance on imports, coupled with flat production throughout the years, puts our economy, national security and ability to Advertisement innovate at an increased risk of supply disruptions.”

Land exchange and conservation act impact copper mining

Mining giants are certainly eager to dig more, but they continue to face opposition from labor and environmental groups alike. Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO) and BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP), for instance, have a significant stake in the state; their joint venture, Resolution Copper Mining, is looking to operate an underground copper mine that would be the biggest copper mine in the US by 2021. The project depends in part on the approval of a land exchange in which 5,300 acres near Superior, Arizona would be given to the government in exchange for 2,400 acres of land with copper. The bill, HR 1904, was approved by the House last autumn, but it is still awaiting Senate approval.

There are, however, a number of concerns being raised by local communities, not least of which is the environmental impact of the project.