Council also discusses term limits, updates city codes
By Bill Van Nimwegen
Hesston Klenk, the Resolution Copper Manager of Governance, Assurance & Engagement, addressed the Apache Junction City Council at their meeting on Tuesday, March 19, 2019.
Mr. Klenk provided an update on the Resolution Copper Project in nearby Superior—a joint venture owned by Rio Tinto (45%) and BHP Billiton (55%).
He said that the operation currently employs about 600 individuals on site; 491 of them live locally.
Resolution Copper has spent $1.4 billion on the project so far, and Mr. Klenk estimated that almost 43% of that is being spent within a 40 mile radius of the mine.
He also showed the Council photos of the reclamation work that is being done to the older Magma Mine as part of the overall project.
The mining method planned for the area is known as block caving, or digging the ore from below the deposit. As ore is removed, there will be some settling of the landscape above. There will also be tailings that will need to be deposited in an environmentally safe area.
Resolution Copper has identified a suitable area, but the U.S. Forest Service will also propose alternative sites, including private lands. Moving the tailings from the mine to where they will be permanently stored involves creating a slurry that can be piped to another location.
Still to come, before the end of the year, is an environmental impact statement that will be presented to the public for comment.
Council Member Christa Rizzi asked if the operation is currently staffed with enough qualified workers and Mr. Klenk said that it was. He added that, in the future, there would be a need to fill specialized robotics positions and that Resolution Copper was working with regional education institutions on training for those jobs. He said there was a misconception among younger workers that mining is all dirty work. The robot operators actually can work 1,000 miles from the mine, using an Xbox-style joystick.
In other business, the Council approved, 7-0, entering into a one-year agreement with Roadway Electric, LLC for traffic signal repair services through the city of Mesa Cooperative Contract.
The Council also unanimously approved to recommend an application for a new Series 9 Liquor Store license and a Sampling Privileges license for Fry’s Food & Drug, 150 E. Old West Highway. The approval will be forwarded to the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control.
The Council approved, 7-0, a resolution naming amendments to the City Code regarding development fees. New subdivision codes have been in discussion since 2017. City staff also discussed updating the city’s building codes “by reference” to the 2018 edition of the International Code Council Series of Codes. The city’s current code is based on the 2006 edition.
Finally, there was a discussion on limiting the number of terms the Apache Junction Mayor and Council Members can serve in office. Mayor Jeff Serdy introduced the topic and asked City Attorney Joel Stern what would be the procedure for imposing the limits.
Mr. Stern said that it would require a public vote and compared the exercise to what the city recently went through when the Permanent Base Adjustment ballot measure was introduced last year. After the measure is written in English and Spanish, there would be publicity created, including arguments for and against the measure, published in two languages and distributed. The measure could then be piggy-backed with other measures on a county ballot. City Clerk Kathy Connelly estimated the cost to the city would be about $30,000.
Although Mayor Serdy said that he’s “talked to a lot of people,” and that there was “overwhelming support” for such a measure, the seven Council Members said they had not heard any calls for term limits. “I have heard just the opposite,” said Council Member Rizzi.
“We have term limits; they’re called voters,” said Council Member Robin Barker. “We have people who care about this city and they vote,” she continued. “I have not heard from anyone who wants term limits.”
The expressed consensus among the Council was that voters in Apache Junction are informed and capable of deciding when it is time for a change.
The Council agreed to meet next in Executive Session at 6 p.m. and Work Session at 7 p.m., on Monday, April 1, 2019, and Executive Session at 6 p.m. and Regular Session at 7 p.m., on Tuesday, April 2, 2019.
City Council meetings are open to the public and held in chambers at 300 E. Superstition Blvd. in Apache Junction. Complete agendas and supporting materials are available at https://apachejunction.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.
Photo above: Hesston Klenk of Resolution Copper showed the Council photos of the reclamation work that is being done to the older Magma Mine as part of the overall project.