It's been a long time coming, but the Resolution copper project, jointly owned by Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO,ASX:RIO,LSE:RIO) and BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP,ASX:BHP,LSE:BLT), could finally be moving forward.
For roughly 12 years, the companies have been fighting to take control of land next to the project, as Rio believes the extension is necessary to maximize the mine's potential. Now, a bill that would secure key land for the project is set to pass in the US Senate next week, according to the Financial Review. The bill Back in 2013, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act was introduced; it calls for the companies to give over 2,020 hectares of land to the feds for conservation in exchange for 980 hectares of US Forest Service land. Little has happened to move the bill forward since then. It was only on Tuesday night that the bill was added to the 1,600-page National Defense Authorization Act, Mining Global reports. The annual bill, which authorizes Pentagon policies and funding, contains other similar "land swaps," was then passed Thursday in Congress. Caitlin Webber, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst, said of the bill's progress, "[t]his land swap has faced a long and bumpy road in Congress ... Finally being tucked into this must-pass bill is the closest it's been to enactment." Republican Paul Gosar, who co-sponsored the bill, reiterated his ongoing support for it, stating, "[c]opper is once again king in Arizona, and our military and our manufacturing base will be assured of critical domestic copper supplies," according to the Review. Abating environmental controversy? Of course, the fact that Rio and BHP want to mine in a forested area where federal law currently prohibits mining has ruffled a few feathers. However, the companies will complete an environmental review before the land exchange takes place. To be sure, copper investors will be watching closely as the Defense Act moves through the Senate.