The US Forest Service is set to withdraw an environmental report it had released earlier that paved way for a land swap for the Resolution Copper project located in Arizona.
The project is being developed by Resolution Copper Mining (RCM), a joint venture owned by Rio Tinto (55%) and BHP (45%).
In January 2021, the Forest Service released the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) and draft record of decision (ROD) for the copper project and land exchange involved for its development.
Since the time when the documents were released, the agency said it received significant input from collaborators, partners, and the public, raising concerns over the project’s impact.
As a result, the agency has now been directed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to rescind the FEIS and ROD issued for the project.
The Resolution Copper project is planned to be developed on Oak Flat, which is considered to be a sacred site to various federally recognised tribes in the US Southwest.
In a press statement, USDA stated: “The recent Presidential Memorandum on tribal consultation and strengthening nation to nation relationships counsels in favour of ensuring the Forest Service has complied with the environmental, cultural, and archaeological analyses required.”
The USDA’s decision allows Forest Service to undertake a comprehensive review based on the input received on the project.
The department stated: “Because the Resolution Copper Mine and Land Exchange Project was directed under the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, long term protection of the site will likely require an act of Congress.”
Re-consultation is planned to commence by the US Forest Service and is expected to complete in several months.
The project was long opposed by Arizona’s San Carlos Apache Tribe and other Native Americans, as they consider the sacred tribal land at Chich’il Bildagoteel, or Oak Flat, to religious deities, Reuters reported.