Resolution Copper Mine: Superior, Arizona

Project Profile

The Resolution Project is located in the historic Pioneer Mining District, three miles east of Superior, Arizona. Exploration from 2001 to 2003 indicates what may be one of the largest copper ore bodies ever found in North America and possibly worldwide. The ore body rests more than a mile below the surface. In May 2008, Rio Tinto, Resolution Copper’s parent company, announced that Resolution Copper had completed sufficient drilling on the deposit to report an Inferred Resource* (see footnote) of 1.34 billion tonnes, containing 1.51 percent copper and 0.040 percent molybdenum.

In March 2010 the company reported an increased Inferred Resource of 1.624 billion tonnes at a grade of 1.47% Cu and 0.037% Mo. Inferred Resource tonnage at Resolution increased following a new mining study including new geotechnical constraints and geological features, a lowering of the expected mining level and results of further drilling. If proven out by additional drilling, a mine of this size would be capable of producing 25 percent of expected future US copper demand over several decades.

Mining projects advance to completion and our project is now in the“pre-feasibility” phase. The work scheduled for the next several years includes dewatering the former Magma mine and sinking an exploratory shaft to 7,000 feet below the surface, as well as preparing numerous studies to evaluate technical and environmental options that will aid in preparing our mine plan.

The copper ore will be mined using a method known as panel caving, a subset of block caving. Unlike an open pit mine, which involves extensive removal of the surface waste rock to access the ore body, this method accesses the ore from underneath through a series of deep shafts and tunnels. These shafts and tunnels generate minimal waste rock. Waste rock that is generated will be used for reclaiming and restoring the adjacent site of the former Magma mine.

Click here to view the Project Resolution video.

Economic Impact

As the Resolution Project evolves, it benefits not only the Town of Superior but also the surrounding region. A 2011 third-party studyconducted by Elliot D. Pollack and Company projected the following impacts:

  • Total economic impact on the state of Arizona is estimated at $61.4 billion over the project’s expected lifespan or about $1 billion per year for the period spanning from feasibility and construction through operations and eventual reclamation.

The project would generate federal, state, county and local tax revenue of nearly $20 billion.

Projected employment figures include:*

  • 1,400 workers on site during peak production
  • 3,700 total jobs created including direct, indirect and induced jobs with an estimated annual payroll of $220 million.

The Project currently employs more than 500 workers and has already invested about $700 million to date in pre-feasibility studies and development work.

* A conservative copper price of $2.50 per pound was used to calculate estimates.

We are already working to develop our future workforce by supporting K-12 and secondary education programs, particularly in the areas of math and science. We partner with local community colleges, state universities and government organizations that share our desire to help students gain the knowledge and skills to become successful workers.

**An Inferred Resource assumes there is a continuous mineralized body present based on geological evidence, however, the actual mass of the mineralization is still unproven.

The Resolution Project Mining Approach

Protecting Apache Leap

Resolution Copper is committed to preserving the cultural and historical significance as well as the natural beauty of the area known as Apache Leap. To do so, we have included within the proposed land exchange legislation transfer of ownership of Resolution Copper’s acreage along Apache Leap to ensure that all of Apache Leap will remain under the ownership of the federal government, managed by the US Forest Service.

The easement will be managed by a third party (not Resolution Copper) and will be open to the public.

Here are two important points to note. You’ll learn more about each by reading this section of our website:

  1. Our commitment to protecting Apache Leap is absolute, and we are taking a variety of steps (described below) to ensure that the area is not harmed as a result of our mining activities. If any potential threat is determined, we will change our mining practices to ensure the area is protected.
  2. Key components of the mine infrastructure will be located such that they will be in jeopardy from subsidence long before the Apache Leap or Queen Creek Canyon. Thus, by protecting the integrity of our mining operation, we are also protecting the Apache Leap and vice versa.

Panel Caving and Subsidence
Resolution Copper will use the Panel Caving Mining method, which is a variation of block caving. Panel caving allows for the mining of very large ore bodies by dividing it into smaller strips or panels so that the ore can be removed in a safer and more efficient manner. Because the ore body is approximately 7,000 feet below the surface, an open pit is not technologically feasible.

The positive aspects of a panel cave mine include no overburden waste piles at the surface and no large open pits. One consequence of panel cave mines, however, is that there will be surface subsidence or settling. Surface subsidence is caused as the material above the ore body gradually moves downward to replace the ore that has been mined.

The effects on the surface will vary with distance from the ore body and can be divided into a series of zones as illustrated in the figure below.

Click to enlarge imageUsing industry standard engineering practices, we are able to predict the cave, fracture and intact zones based on ore body knowledge gained during our pre-feasibility drilling work. However, a better understanding will come once mining begins.

Keeping a Close Watch on Subsidence
Mining will start as far away from Apache Leap as possible. This will allow us to gather technical information over a period of years in order to reassess cave angles. This data will be used to ensure the Apache Leap easement is not impacted as mining progresses to the west. Methods to monitor subsidence include the following:

  • Seismic Monitoring: Used to monitor cave progression by tracking the seismic energy that is released around its perimeter as it expands.
  • Displacement Monitors: Installed down holes drilled from both surface and underground and used to sense any fracturing of the rock.
  • Tilt Meters: Highly sensitive instruments that will be installed down short holes near the surface and will measure any tilting caused by the cave.
  • GPS, Satellite Imagery and Laser Scanning: Surface-based monitoring that can be used to sense movements as small as 0.08 inches (2 mm).

This information will allow us to identify any possible threat to Apache Leap as a result of our mining activities. If a threat is identified, we will change our mining practices to ensure that the area is protected.

The figure below is an aerial view of Apache Leap and the Resolution Copper Project area, based on current knowledge of mineralization. The figure shows the easement area (in yellow border) that will be protected during the mining operation. The other three lines depict the potential cave, fracture and intact zone boundaries (red, orange and green, respectively) after completion of mining (currently anticipated after 2050).

Subsidence Zone on completion of Mining

Click to enlarge imageThis figure illustrates Resolution Copper’s current best estimate of the final effects of surface subsidence. The assumptions and methodology behind this estimate have been reviewed by a panel of independent industry experts. This panel visits Resolution Copper annually to review the technical component of our pre-feasibility study work.

Why the mine would be affected before the Apache Leap 
It is important to note that the way the mine will be constructed adds to the protection of Apache Leap. Here’s why:

A series of three shafts are required to provide fresh air to the underground workers and equipment. This will include the existing #9 shaft and two new shafts in the same area. These shafts will be the main lifeline to the mine and will cost in the order of $400 million to build. The mine could not operate without these shafts.

The way we plan to mine means that the intact zone would approach the boundary of the shaft complex after 15 years of mining. At that point, the intact zone limit would still be more than 3,000 feet from the boundary of the Apache Leap easement and would take another 25 years to reach the Apache Leap boundary. In simple terms, if our subsidence predictions end up being inaccurate, it will jeopardize the mining operation long before it affects the Apache Leap or Queen Creek Canyon.

Subsidence evaluations and predictions will be regularly updated as more geological information is gathered and more powerful predictive tools are developed. Once caving commences, a comprehensive monitoring system will be used to track the progression of the cave, validate subsidence predictions and check the suitability of the mine plan.

If you have any questions on the plans of Resolution Copper or the protection of Apache Leap, please contact us or call our Resolution Project Information hotline at 520.689.3409.

Management Biographies


James AlmaasJames Almaas is Resolution Copper’s manager of Dewatering System Construction. James is responsible for building a nearly 27-mile pipeline from the company’s mine site to the Central Arizona Project (CAP) canal where the water will be blended and used for beneficial agricultural use. He is also accountable for mine water treatment operations, plant maintenance and mine site surface operations management. James has more than 28 years of mining, engineering, project management, construction and consulting experience.

Before assuming his current role, James was the mine development project manager at Resolution Copper, responsible for managing all mining-relations functions at the project.

Prior to Resolution Copper, James spent nine years as a principal consultant with Rio Tinto, Resolution Copper’s parent company, in the Technical Services USA group. James’ responsibilities encompassed technical, strategic risk and due diligence reviews with a focus on mine design and mine safety at the company’s global underground mining operations.

James has held positions of increasing responsibility at multi-national mining companies since 1981. Positions included underground project engineer, mine engineer, mine manager, mine planning engineer and chief mine engineer.

James holds a bachelor of applied science degree in Mining and Mineral Process Engineering from the University of British Columbia.

Jon CherryJon Cherry is vice president for Environment, Legal and External Relations at Resolution Copper. He is responsible for providing strategic direction in the areas of environmental permitting and compliance, legal matters, and external relations related to development of the Resolution Project.

Jon joined Rio Tinto’s Salt Lake City based Kennecott Minerals Company in 1992, and has held a series of managerial and project development positions. His experience in the mining industry spans 21 years. Since 2003 and prior to joining RCM, Jon was general manager responsible for permitting and development of Kennecott Eagle Minerals’ nickel and copper mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Jon was instrumental in crafting Michigan’s new nonferrous metallic mining law, enacted in 2004 and touted among the most environmentally protective in the nation. In 2006 he was an invited guest lecturer by Harvard University on sustainable development in mining and mine reclamation. He is multi-published on environmental issues related to mining.

Jon holds a BS (Environmental Engineering) from Montana Tech of The University of Montana and is a registered Professional Engineer. He is a member of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME), the Executive Board of the Lake Superior Community Partnership, the Marquette County (Mich) Ambassadors, was elected to Michigan Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and was previously a member of the Utah Air Quality Board.

Joe GarrJoe Garr is the Information Systems and Technology (IS&T) department head for Resolution Copper. In this role he is responsible for the company’s IS&T operations, geographic information systems (GIS), information management, data security and offsite-facilities.

Joe has more than 22 years experience in the technology sector, having worked in a broad range of technical disciplines for leading companies including Motorola, NDC Health and Complete Business Solutions, Inc. He also has multinational senior management experience that spans the United States and Asia. Before joining Resolution Copper, Joe was an independent management consultant specializing in technical projects in the areas of company startups, project management, client relations, acquisitions and contract management.

Joe has a bachelor of science degree in Information Systems from the University of Phoenix and a masters in Information Systems Management from the Keller Graduate School of Management.

Joe is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society, an international group of computer industry professionals dedicated to advancing the theory and application of computer and information-processing technology.

Tom GoodellTom Goodell is Resolution Copper’s manager of Underground Development, responsible for directing all underground mining activities and shaft development work. Tom has more than 35 years of mining, engineering, project management, shaft construction and development experience. He has worked for leading national and international companies, including Redpath Corporation, Battelle, Dravo Corporation and McIntosh Engineering.

Before assuming his current role, Tom spent two years overseeing Resolution Copper’s shaft development progress as project manager, shaft sinking.

Prior to Resolution Copper, he spent five years as general manager for McIntosh Engineering, a global consultancy specializing in underground mining engineering and related technical services. Prior to McIntosh he spent ten years with J.S. Redpath Corporation as general manager of US Operations. In those positions responsibilities encompassed design, startup, operation and management of large-scale shaft and underground construction projects. His accomplishments include three shaft rehabilitation projects, management of two shaft-sinking projects, and engineering design and construction of several additional shafts, tunnel and mine development projects. During his career Tom also provided direct input to five Rio Tinto underground projects across the United States and Canada.

Tom holds a bachelor of science degree in Geology from Colorado State University. He is a past chairman of the Underground Technology Research Council and is accredited as an executive principle for contractor licenses in Nevada, California and Arizona. Tom maintains a private pilot’s license.

Rich HeigRich Heig joined Resolution Copper Mining in November 2006 as vice president, Pre-feasibility Study. Rich is responsible for studies that enable Resolution Copper to define and test the potential ore body, evaluate how to proceed in reaching the deposit and estimate the cost and resources required to move forward. Rich also manages environmental investigations and ensures that needed permits for new mine development are obtained.

Rich has more than 30 years experience in the mining industry, including the past 20 years with Rio Tinto group companies such as Kennecott Utah Copper. He has broad knowledge of base metal (copper, molybdenum, lead and zinc) and precious metal production (gold and silver) and has participated in mining projects throughout the world.

Rich is a past member of the Alaska Minerals Commission, appointed by the state Senate. He holds a Metallurgical Engineering degree from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

Rich has been an invited guest speaker on the subject of mining at a number of events, including the National Academies in Washington, D.C.

Sterling HundleySterling Hundley is Resolution Copper’s Financial Operations officer/controller and is responsible for the company’s finance and control procedures.

Before assuming his current role, Sterling was the chief accountant at Resolution Copper, responsible for all accounting, treasury and financial reporting functions at the project.

Prior to joining Resolution Copper, Sterling spent 16 years with ConocoPhillips, a global leader in the oil and gas industry, where he was most recently director of financial reporting for the Risk Management and Remediation division in charge of project valuation, external audits, SEC reporting, and IRS liaison. Sterling has more than 20 years of financial reporting, budgeting, external audit, and project valuation experience.

Sterling is a CPA and holds a bachelor of science degree in Finance from Arizona State University.

Richard LockRichard Lock is Project director for Resolution Copper, responsible for the pre-feasibility studies and associated on-site activities at the Resolution Project.

Richard has more than 20 years experience in the mining industry, having begun his career with De Beers-Anglo American in South Africa. Richard then joined Rio Tinto’s Diavik Diamonds Project (Diavik) at Lac de Gras in Canada, where he took the project from discovery to production.

Most recently, Richard completed a large oil sands mining project in Alberta, Canada for Canadian Natural Resources Limited, an independent oil and natural gas exploration, development and production company.

Richard holds a bachelor of science degree in Mining Engineering from the University of Wales in the United Kingdom.

Casey McKeonCasey McKeon is Resolution Copper’s Environmental manager, responsible for securing and maintaining local, state and federal permits, managing the reclamation of the Superior site and implementing a monitoring program to support the dewatering project where water will be used for beneficial agricultural use. Casey is also accountable for implementing the company’s global environmental standards and managing Resolution Copper’s ISO 14001-compliant Environmental Management System.

Before assuming her current role, Casey was an environmental superintendent, responsible for managing environmental functions at the project.

Prior to Resolution Copper, Casey spent eleven years with the University of Arizona where she held positions of increasing responsibility in the Department of Biochemistry as an undergraduate and then the university’s Environmental Research Lab during and after her graduate studies. Casey’s responsibilities encompassed laboratory work, data analysis, extensive research and staff supervision, with a research focus on soil remediation at abandoned mine sites.

Casey holds a bachelor of science degree in Microbiology, a masters of Soil and Water Science, and a PhD in Soil and Water Science. All of her degrees were obtained at the University of Arizona. She is a member of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME), an international group of minerals industry professionals where she is active on the Executive Committee for the Environmental Division.

Bruce RichardsonBruce Richardson is manager of Communications and External Relations at Resolution Copper Mining. He is responsible for providing strategic direction and execution in the areas of internal and external communications, government affairs, community outreach and philanthropy.

Bruce joined Resolution Copper after serving as director of Corporate Communications at PetSmart for six years. He previously was Mining Communications manager for Phelps Dodge Corp. (now Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold) where he managed communications associated with the permitting and development of two open pit copper mines near Safford, Arizona and mining operations in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. He began his communications career with Arizona Public Service Co. where he served 12 years in a variety of internal and external communications capacities including support of the company’s electric vehicle and solar energy programs.

Bruce holds a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from the University of Utah. He is a member of the Arizona Audubon Society Business Advisory Committee and on the board of Pinal Partnership.

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