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Proposed Oak Flat mine could impact Arizona groundwater supplies, report says

An environmental consultant has issued a report on the potential water usage of a proposed copper mine in the Oak Flat area of Tonto National Forest.

The report says that Resolution Copper would use about 250 billion gallons over the life of the mine and could have consequences for Arizona’s water users.

Arizona is in a severe long-term drought, and its reservoirs are at all-time lows. That means the state will rely more on groundwater in the future.

“The proposed Resolution Copper Mine would be a very large new consumer of Arizona’s water at a time when everyone else is being asked to cut back,” said Jim Wells, a hydrogeologist with the environmental consulting firm that issued the report.

Wells says that if the mine is approved, other uses, from farming to urban growth, will be affected.

Resolution Copper says it has been banking surface water to offset its need for groundwater.  

Ron Dungan was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2024.