[Resolution Copper mine] Arizona: McCain, Kirkpatrick bet on 7,000-foot hole to victory (Environment & Energy Publishing – September 20, 2016)


The world’s two largest mining companies have dug a 7,000-foot tunnel in Arizona that Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick hope leads straight to the Senate.

Donald Trump’s controversial GOP run for president has helped put the state’s Senate seat in play even though analysts consider it to be reliably red. Arizona has backed a Democrat for president once since 1952.

Most recent polls have incumbent McCain ahead — some by a lot — of challenger Kirkpatrick, but other surveys have shown the five-term senator to be in a dead heat with the three-time congresswoman. Trump, immigration and other issues are dominating the political tilt, but little separates the candidates when it comes to the proposed Resolution Copper mine.

The joint venture by Rio Tinto PLC and BHP Billiton Ltd. — roughly 100 miles east of Phoenix near the community of Superior — is one of the world’s top undeveloped copper deposits, and both McCain and Kirkpatrick hope their support endears them to voters worried about the economy.

Tribal and green activists, in contrast, say the mine risks hurting the environment, including an area called Oak Flat, which the San Carlos Apache consider sacred.

Most Democrats side with Apache activists, who have occupied a campground at Oak Flat since McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, attached a rider to defense legislation in 2014 approving a land swap for the project.

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