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Agency aims for sustainable mining

The Arizona Republic

Max Jarman

The Arizona Republic

Science Foundation Arizona, the nonprofit organization formed in 2006 to promote science-based research and learning, is moving to make the state a global center for mineral-resource studies.

On Tuesday, the agency will unveil plans in Phoenix and Tucson for the Institute for Mineral Resources, a team of industry, technical and academic experts who will study the latest sustainable mining technologies related to production, efficiency, education and mining safety. Officials also will make an announcement in Safford/Thatcher on Nov. 20

Science Foundation project director Cara Nanry said more details about the program would be announced Tuesday.

Arizona is one of the largest copper-producing regions in the country, with more that a dozen working mines and more on the drawing board.

The industry pumps $5 billion a year into the state’s economy and provides more than 8,000 jobs. But there is a cost in the form of disturbed land, leftover toxic chemicals and pollution.

Major mining companies such as Resolution Copper, Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. and Asarco LLC have made commitments to make their operations more environmentally sustainable.

Freeport maintains a technology center in Safford, where it studies ways to improve production and reduce its environmental impact.

The company is using bacteria instead of sulfuric acid to leach copper out of ore at Morenci and has found a way to produce copper without the hazardous smelting.

Resolution Copper, which is developing one of the world’s deepest underground mines near Superior, also is studying ways to use technology to minimize the impact on the environment.

“We need to have access to new opportunities that will come through research,’ said Resolution President David Salisbury.

Resolution, Freeport and 15 other mining companies have committed resources to the Institute for Mineral Resources, which will be run out of the University of Arizona in Tucson, with branches in Phoenix and at Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher.

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