Queen Creek, AZ Land Exchange Bill Introduced Into the Congress

Date: 6/14/2009

On May 20, Arizona’s US Representative Ann Kirkpatrick introduced a House bill authorizing the exchange of popular bouldering area Oak Flat to Resolution Copper Mining. The Queen Creek Coalition (QCC) local climbing organization quickly issued a statement indicating that they could not endorse legislation which authorizes the transfer and makes possible the eventual destruction of the unique climbing resource at Oak Flat. In early June, the Access Fund met with Congressional offices in Washington, DC and relayed the QCC’s updated position statement to US Senate and House staff who indicated that numerous hurdles still block this land exchange bill from advancing.

A large copper ore deposit sits near and potentially under what is referred to as “Oak Flat.” A little over a year ago, members of the Arizona rock climbing community formed the Queen Creek Coalition (QCC) to look after climber interests with regard to the proposed exchange of Oak Flat by Resolution Copper Mining. The land exchange and resulting mining operations will destroy or eliminate the climbing area.

While Resolution Copper has made good faith efforts to address concerns of the climbing community, they have indicated that the QCC’s primary concern to maintain the surface and ecology of the land above the mine can not be alleviated.

If passed, the new House bill (H.R. 2509) will authorize the land exchange and most likely lead to the destruction of the Oak Flat climbing environment. However, there are other concerns related to this exchange bill that could prevent it from passing, including the lack of an environmental analysis and impacts on Native American cultural resources. A hearing on the “companion” Senate bill (S. 409) has been scheduled for June 17.

For more information, visit the Energy & Natural Resource Committee or the Queen Creek Coalition’s website.