Hearings and Business Meetings

SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 02:30 PM

Mr. Michael Hing

Mayor, Town of Superior, AZ

S.B. 2466

I am Michael Hing, Mayor of Superior, Arizona.  I am pleased to submit this testimony on behalf of the Town of Superior concerning S 2466. 

My roots in Superior are deep. I was born and raised there. My grandparents opened their grocery store in the 1920s and I operate it now with other members of my family. As a small businessman and active community member, I’ve witnessed the town’s success during boom times and its decline during busts. I plan to usher in a positive future for the town, and this land exchange is crucial to that future.

Please allow me to explain what I mean. When the Magma Mine was operating, our town was prosperous and grew to 7,500 people. Jobs were plentiful and Superior made a name for itself. But we depended only on the mine for our well-being. Then, in 1987, Magma closed. Our community was devastated. The effects are lingering to this day. Our population shrank by more than half, to 3,500 residents. Major social problems surfaced as employment plummeted and people lost hope. Crime and drug use skyrocketed. Schools for our children lost funding, compromising our ability to provide a solid education. The mine left an environmental mess for others to clean up.

As mayor, I’ve absorbed an important lesson from witnessing that civic trauma. I know to never rely completely on mining again. Our economy needs to be diversified.

That’s why I am so pleased that Resolution Copper Company has come to Superior. The company discovered a significant ore body 7,000 feet below the old Magma Mine. With such a major discovery, Resolution could’ve swept in to Superior with a flourish of promises and new mining jobs and then abandoned us when the ore was exhausted. But from the day company representatives first arrived, they have looked to the town’s future. They approached me with ways to build up our economy and to do it right. The company is just in the early stages of eventually extracting the ore, but its representatives are already helping the town plan for the day the mine closes.

The company works with our schools, boosting math and science education to elementary-age children and providing summer jobs and college scholarships to older youth. They have spent and are continuing to spend millions in voluntary efforts to clean up, reclaim and improve their land and facilities. They helped arrange economic development meetings with the Arizona Department of Commerce to shape a workable plan that will diversify our economy in mining services, manufacturing, tourism, recreation and other businesses.  They hire local contractors and provide job training to local citizens. They are working to beef up our infrastructure, including establishing Superior as a wireless Internet zone. If this land exchange legislation is successful, Superior will gain valuable property we can use for even more economic development. In short, from the beginning, Resolution Copper has worked with Superior and other area communities with a vision of sustainable development. 

The company’s willingness to build Superior’s future is very important to our partnership. But even more importantly, company officials have been completely transparent about their operations. The company formed a citizens’ committee to help town residents stay informed of company activities and to give our input. They routinely ask our opinions and include us in crucial discussions.

I testify before you today as a partner with Resolution Copper. The land exchange legislation before you is critical to our shared vision of the future. Resolution must complete the land exchange before it invests $2 billion in mine development.

I will not bore you today with every detail of the exchange, which will streamline the now-fragmented ownership of 3,000 acres in the Oak Flat area. Suffice it to say that the town, the state, the governor, and members of our Congressional delegation including Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain and Rep. Rick Renzi, agree that Resolution Copper should acquire the land, including campgrounds and rock-climbing areas. In return, the non-federal properties that Resolution has assembled to convey to the United States for the exchange are spectacular in their contribution to wildlife habitat, protection of streams and other water resources, endangered species habitat, land conservation, and opportunities for recreation.

Allow me to describe some of the other environmental benefits that S 2466 will include for Superior, surrounding communities and the State of Arizona. 

First, Section 6 of S. 2466 permanently protects the Apache Leap escarpment, an environmental landmark above Superior that dominates our landscape.  The Superstition Land Trust and Resolution Copper, working with the town, support the language of S. 2466 which insures that the Apache Leap escarpment is never disturbed by development and remains as it is today. Additionally, Resolution will spend up to $250,000 to provide public access, trails, or trailheads to Apache Leap, if the Land Trust, local Indian tribes and town deem it appropriate. 

Second, Resolution, the town, and the U.S. Forest Service have been working together to identify a replacement campground or campgrounds for an existing 14-site Forest Service campground at Oak Flat. S 2466 requires the Secretary of Agriculture to design and construct one or more replacements in the Globe Ranger District, and requires Resolution to pay up to $500,000 for them.

Third, Resolution will compensate for the loss of recreational rock climbing at Oak Flat. The company funded a large-scale search to find a bigger and better climbing area. The resulting find, less than 20 miles away at Tam O’Shanter Peak, has sparked interest from climbers all over the world. The Arizona State Parks Board and the Arizona Legislature have recognized this incredible find and are pursuing a new State Park there devoted to climbing. A bill is moving through the Arizona Legislature to authorize the park’s creation, assuming that S. 2466 is enacted.   

The land exchange also creates new economic opportunities for Superior, which, as you can see from the map attached to testimony, is largely surrounded by the Tonto National Forest. S 2466 provides the town with an opportunity to acquire some of this adjacent property from the United States to meet anticipated growth.

Also, the Town’s 30-acre cemetery is located on an isolated parcel of federal land managed by the Tonto National Forest. While hundreds of our forefathers have been buried there for the past century, no authorization exists for our cemetery. S. 2466 allows the Town to acquire this parcel at fair market value from the Forest Service.

Additionally, the Town owns a 265-acre parcel, which has a small landing strip. The property has a reversionary interest, so if it ever stops being used as an airport, it will be returned to the U.S. government. The Town wants to acquire this reversionary interest, and S. 2466 provides for a sale of the interest to the Town at fair market value. Moreover, S 2466 provides that the Town may acquire up to 181 additional acres of land contiguous to the airport, also at fair market value, and in a manner that provides the United States with manageable boundaries on retained parcels. These airport parcels represent a significant opportunity for the Town in terms of future growth, economic diversification and development. And future airport uses have been protected by the Arizona Department of Transportation. The department’s 5-year capital improvement plan includes the ability to relocate the airport if we choose.

Finally, S. 2466 provides that if the lands offered by Resolution exceed the appraised value of the federal Oak Flat parcel, any excess value can be applied to the Town’s purchase of the cemetery and airport parcels.  Both Resolution and the Town are anxious for the Town to acquire these properties.  

Mr. Chairman, as our governor has stated, the new mine is projected to produce 1,000 jobs during construction and 400 to 600 permanent jobs, plus more than a thousand related and indirect jobs.  The economic impact of the new mine will allow us to grow in a way that ensures a future for our children and grandchildren. The possibilities the mine holds for Superior and Arizona are among the many reasons that Gov. Napolitano is joining us in strongly supported this land exchange.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I would also like to thank the members of our Congressional delegation, including Sen. Kyl and McCain, and Rep. Renzi, for their efforts in bringing this legislation to fruition and our state delegation for promoting the creation of a state park. The town of Superior urges your thoughtful consideration and timely passage of S. 2466, so that this land exchange, which is so important to our future, can be implemented at the earliest possible date.