"We work very well with the Arizona agencies, the administration, and our state legislature, as they absolutely understand the importance of mining in the state of Arizona."
Can you give an overview of Arizona’s geological potential and share some key facts about the state's mining industry?
Arizona has earned the title as the ‘Copper State’ for its abundant copper reserves and for producing 74% of the nation’s copper. Mining is very important in Arizona and we have a copper dome on our state capitol, a copper star in our state flag, and a miner on our state seal. We are the number one producer of nonfuel minerals in the US, and the second most attractive state for mining investment due to our political and regulatory environment. We have a tremendous mineral endowment in the state and are starting to see more interest in other elements beyond copper, such as manganese, zinc, lithium, and rare earths.
Can you speak about the permitting issues around Resolution Copper and Rosemont Copper in Arizona, and elaborate on the potential impact these projects could have?
Both projects just received favourable decisions from the courts that further define a path forward. Hudbay Minerals, who owns the Rosemont project, has actually pivoted towards the Copper World project, which is on private land, rather than trying to mine on federal land and dealing with the permitting issues there. The Copper World project is moving forward very quickly and has incredible reserves. With regards to Resolution Copper, a world-class deposit over a mile deep, there are cultural concerns over the land they are using, but I believe that they will find a path forward as many of the issues are being addressed.
What are the main challenges and opportunities in Arizona’s mining sector?
Arizona has a constructive tax structure, favourable to mining and business. With regards to the regulatory landscape, we work very well with the Arizona agencies, the administration, and our state legislature, as they absolutely understand the importance of mining in the state of Arizona. There are, however, many NGO groups that have a different opinion about mining and this certainly poses challenges. There are companies that can hire upwards of 1,000 people for their operations in Arizona, but unfortunately it is difficult to find people who want to work in an industry they do not understand.
How are mines in Arizona recycling and reusing water?
All mining companies have initiatives to address ESG-related issues. Water is a very big topic in Arizona as we are in a desert and some water supplies are being depleted. In 2022, the legislature took on a huge investment in water augmentation and an authority was created to help address these issues in the state. The mining industry has been very proactive and is on the forefront of water management, but it remains important for us to support the state efforts to address this challenge.
Can you elaborate on the safety standards in the mining industry in Arizona?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, incident rates in mining are lower than that of retail and are on par with education. Arizona’s incident rate used to be lower than the national average, but it has increased a little bit above that, which is unacceptable to mines in Arizona. We are very competitive, and our goal is to reach zero incidents.
How do you see the Arizona mining industry evolving in the medium term?
Looking at global competitiveness for reserves, it is important for the US and Arizona to be able to mine domestically. Currently, even though we are a high ranking jurisdiction in terms of friendliness to investment and mining, it still takes 10 or 12 years to permit mining operations. We are looking at new ways to quickly get mines online, and a lot of that has to do with going to older mining sites and looking at mining waste, which can hold significant opportunity. For example, the property of Arizona Sonoran had already been mined in the past and a very impressive ore body was found under the waste facility.
Arizona Mining Association’s goal is to keep the US very competitive. Arizona will be in the lead as the number one producer of nonfuel minerals and we want to be able to continue to provide the quality of life that people enjoy with their phones, computers, and electric vehicles, but do it in a very responsible way in terms of environmental health and safety.