Ray Land Exchange SEIS
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Ray Land Exchange proposal?

The Ray Land Exchange began in 1994 with a proposal from ASARCO LLC (Asarco) to acquire Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands near or adjacent to their Ray Mine operations and in the Casa Grande vicinity, in exchange for private parcels Asarco owns which have been identified by the BLM as desirable for public ownership.  Asarco would acquire approximately 8,196 acres of public lands (where both the surface and mineral estate are administered by the BLM) and approximately 2,143 acres of mineral estate lands (where the surface estate is owned by Asarco and the mineral estate is administered by the BLM). Asarco also identified approximately 637 acres of BLM mineral estate lands near Casa Grande, Arizona, where Asarco owned the surface estate. All of these lands, referred to as the Selected Lands, total approximately 10,976 acres.


Ray Land Exchange SEIS


Ray Land Exchange Selected Lands 

Ray Mine Parcels
  • 6,325 acres
  • 18 parcels surrounding the Ray open pit copper mine
  • Exchange for mineral estate only on 5 parcels that total approximately 1387 acres 
  • Exchange for both surface estate and mineral estate on 13 parcels that total approximately 4938 acres
Copper Butte Parcels
  • 3,182 acres
  • 5 parcels located 2 miles west of the Ray Mine
  • Exchange for mineral estate only on 2 parcels that total approximately 756 acres
  • Exchange for both surface estate and mineral estate on 3 parcels that total approximately 2426 acres
Chilito Parcels
  • 832 acres
  • 5 parcels near the Hayden operations
  • Exchange for both surface estate and mineral estate on all parcels
Casa Grande Parcels
  • 637 acres
  • 3 parcels near Casa Grande
  • Exchange for mineral estate only; the surface estate of these parcels is owned by a third party

In exchange for the Selected Lands, Asarco has offered 7,304 acres of private land that they own that the BLM has identified as desirable for public ownership and management. These “Offered Lands” possess resource qualities considered to be of significant value to the public and have been identified for acquisition by the BLM. The highly valuable resource lands include parcels within or adjacent to wilderness areas and Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), lands containing riparian areas, and lands that serve as habitat for endangered species and other special category wildlife species, such as the desert tortoise.

Ray Land Exchange Offered Lands 

Gila River at Cochran Parcel
 
  • 320 acres
  • 2.5 miles southwest of the White Canyon Wilderness on the Gila River
  • Contains a segment of the Gila River Riparian Management Area
  • 146 acres of riparian habitat suitable for southwestern willow flycatcher and western yellow-billed cuckoo
  • BLM special status species known or likely to occur
  • Important wintering and breeding bird habitat
 
Knisely Ranch Parcels
 
  • 160 acres
  • 3 in-holding parcels within the Mount Tipton Wilderness
  • Great Basin conifer woodland, interior chaparral, and Mohave desertscrub
  • Pine Canyon provides mesquite- and catclaw-dominated xeroriparian habitat
McCracken Mountain Parcels
 
  • 6,384 acres
  • 10 parcels within the McCracken Desert Tortoise Habitat ACEC
  • High quality xeroriparian habitat for a variety of wildlife species
  • BLM special status species known or likely to occur
  • Consolidates checkerboard lands, limiting future development in desert tortoise habitat
Sacramento Valley Parcel
 
  • 120 acres
  • Adjacent to Warm Springs Wilderness and near Mount Nutt Wilderness
  • Mohave desertscrub biotic community
  • Adjacent to high-value bighorn sheep habitat in Black Mountains; within the Black Mountains Herd Management Area
  • Xeroriparian vegetation includes ironwood, catclaw, foothill paloverde and jojoba
Tomlin Parcels
 
  • 320 acres
  • Two of three parcels are located on the Big Sandy River
  • Big Sandy parcels provide high-quality riparian habitat for a wide variety of wildlife species, including potentially suitable habitat for southwestern willow flycatcher
  • BLM special status species known or likely to occur (desert tortoise, chuckwalla, lowland leopard frog, and bat species)
  • Area subject to Wild and Scenic River study

 Why is the BLM doing a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)?

The Tucson Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is beginning to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Ray Land Exchange. The SEIS will supplement the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) issued in 1999 and the Record of Decision (ROD) issued on April 27, 2000. The decision approved a land exchange between Asarco and the BLM for approximately 10,976 acres of Selected Lands identified for acquisition by Asarco in exchange for approximately 7,304 acres of Offered Lands to be acquired by BLM.

The FEIS and ROD were challenged by three environmental groups, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Western Land Exchange Project, and the Sierra Club (collectively called CBD) administratively and in federal court, ultimately prevailing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in November, 2010. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) “in assuming without explanation that Asarco would perform mining operations on the selected lands in the same manner regardless of the land exchange.” The court recognized that Asarco has the right to conduct mining and related activities under the General Mining Law, based on Asarco’s mining and mill site claims on the Selected Lands. But the court believed that the manner and extent of mining was likely to differ depending on whether the Selected Lands are owned by the United States as public lands subject to the BLM’s surface use regulations at 43 CFR Subpart 3809 or by Asarco as private lands in fee simple, in which case the BLM’s surface use regulations would not apply.

Because the deficiencies in the 1999 FEIS are narrow in scope the BLM has determined that conducting the analysis using the Supplemental EIS guidelines is the appropriate tool.

What will be included in the SEIS?

The SEIS will supplement the 1999 FEIS by providing a “with and without” comparative analysis found lacking by the Ninth Circuit. This analysis will compare two scenarios of potential environmental impacts on the Selected Lands from mining operations. One scenario analyzes potential impacts that could occur as a result of mining activities on the Selected Lands if they are not exchanged and remain under BLM jurisdiction (i.e., mining occurs with BLM regulations). The other scenario analyzes potential impacts that could occur as a result of mining activities if the Selected Lands are exchanged and become privately owned lands (i.e., mining occurs without BLM regulations).

The SEIS will also address any substantial changes in the land exchange and any significant new circumstances or information that are relevant to analyzing the impacts of the land exchange (see 40 C.F.R. § 1502.9(c); BLM NEPA Handbook § 5.3).   

What is the process to complete the SEIS?

The process to complete the SEIS is as follows:

  1. Prepare a Draft SEIS -- Resource specialists within the BLM are currently conducting applicable resource analyses and writing the Draft SEIS materials.
  2. Publish Draft SEIS/Public Comment Period – Upon completion of document preparation the Draft SEIS will be published and presented to the public for a 45-day review and comment period. Public meetings will be held to present the Draft SEIS to the public and receive comments on the draft document.
  3. Prepare Final SEIS and respond to public comments – The BLM will analyze all public comments and substantive comments will be used to revise the Draft SEIS.
  4. Publish Final SEIS/Public Availability Period – The revised Draft SEIS will be published as the Final SEIS. Publication is followed by a 30-day Public Availability Period. While the availability period is not a formal public comment period, the BLM may receive comments on the Final SEIS which may be addressed in the Record of Decision.
  5. Record of Decision (ROD) – The ROD is the final step in the SEIS process. The ROD is a document that states what the decision is and discusses all the factors that were contemplated in reaching a decision.

The schedule to complete the SEIS is as follows:

  • 2012-13 – Conduct resource analyses and write supplemental materials
  • Spring/Summer 2014 - Publish Draft SEIS, initiate 45-day public comment period and hold public comment meetings
  • Summer/Fall 2014 – Revise SEIS based on public comment
  • Fall/Winter 2014 – Publish Final SEIS
  • January 2015 –Publish Record of Decision

Will the BLM conduct public scoping for the SEIS?

Public scoping is not required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the
Supplemental EIS process.

When will the Draft SEIS be published?

The BLM plans to publish the Draft SEIS by summer 2014. There will be a 45-day public
comment period following publication.

How can I comment on the SEIS?

You are encouraged to take an active part in the Ray Land Exchange SEIS process, particularly during the 45-day
public comment period when you can submit official comments on the Draft SEIS. The BLM
will also hold public comment meetings on the Draft SIES to present the land exchange
proposal, all findings contained in the Draft SEIS, and solicit public comments.

  • Mailing List – We are maintaining a Ray Land Exchange SEIS project mailing list. Join the mailing list by emailing contact information to RayLandExchange@blm.gov.
  • Questions or comments about the Ray Land Exchange SEIS may be directed to:RayLandExchange@blm.gov or to the project manager, Michael Werner, at 602-417-9561 or mwerner@blm.gov.
  • The BLM is maintaining a Ray Land Exchange SEIS project website with detailed information about the land exchange at http://tinyurl.com/RayMine.
Why is the BLM supportive of the Ray Land Exchange?

The BLM is supportive of the Ray Land Exchange because the Offered Lands include lands that the BLM has identified as having significant resource value and beneficial for public acquisition. The Offered Lands parcels contain important resources and include lands within or adjacent to Wilderness areas and Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), lands containing riparian areas, and lands that serve as habitat for endangered species and other special category wildlife species, such as the desert tortoise. Benefits to the BLM also include consolidating checkerboard ownership of lands and the ability to manage blocks of lands within ACECs and Wilderness areas and increased habitat protection for special status species and other birds and wildlife.

Why is Asarco pursuing the Ray Land Exchange?

From Asarco’s perspective, the primary purpose of the land exchange is to acquire fee simple title to the Selected Lands in order to consolidate Asarco’s land holdings and permanently secure Asarco’s rights through private ownership. This will prevent future title disputes and problems related to land ownership, which often arise in connection with unpatented mining claims and similar interests. Private ownership is important to protect Asarco’s current and future investment in its mining and mineral processing facilities. Acquisition of the Selected Lands also will buffer operations from surrounding land uses, facilitate property management, and provide for potential development and expansion in the future.

Asarco has mining and mill site claims covering virtually all of the Selected Land parcels, and have plans to conduct mining and mining support on these parcels. The exchange would allow for the private expansion of the Ray Mine Complex and Copper Butte properties. Benefits to Asarco include consolidating land holdings under common ownership, provide title security to support current and future operations and to provide additional land buffers for site security and reduce conflicts with other resource users.

Why is the acreage different for the Selected Lands and Offered Lands?

Land exchanges are not completed on an acre for acre basis. The exchange is based on the value of the land exchanged and not the direct acres exchanged. The appraised value of the Federal and non-Federal land need to be equal or within a 25 percent cash equalization range. The BLM completes land exchanges on an equal value basis with differences in value between the Federal and non-Federal lands equalized by either the addition or subtraction of lands and/or by a cash payment. Cash payments from the non-federal proponent may not exceed 25 per cent of the value of the Federal lands involved in the land exchange. 

How is the land value determined?

The BLM secures an official appraisal of all exchange lands, which is reviewed and approved by Department of Interior officials. The appraisals take into consideration both surface value and potential subsurface mineral value. A current mineral report is being prepared during the SEIS process to advise the land exchange appraisal. 

 Will the Ray Land Exchange Selected Lands or Offered Lands change in the SEIS? 

Upon final completion of the updated appraisals, Asarco and BLM may need to modify the Offered Lands and/or the Selected Lands package (proposed action) that was originally proposed for exchange so that the appraised values of the Selected and Offered Lands are roughly equal. Cash equalization within applicable regulatory parameters may be used after making all reasonable efforts to equalize values by excluding lands. In such event, values would be equalized by the payment of money to the BLM as the circumstances require so long as payment does not exceed 25 percent of the total value of the lands or interests transferred out of federal ownership pursuant to 43 U.S.C. §1716 (b). No new lands will be added to the Ray Land Exchange proposal. It is possible that some lands will be removed to meet exchange valuation requirements.

What activities will occur on the Selected Lands if provided to Asarco?

Foreseeable uses for the Selected Lands include expansion of open pit operations, haul roads, leach and rock deposition areas, access roads, storm water facilities, and administrative facilities. Some parcels will be used as buffer areas and contain limited or no mining activity. Asarco holds unpatented mining claims and mill sites on virtually all of the Selected Lands and holds title to the surface estate of certain parcels. Consequently, under all alternatives, the foreseeable uses of the Selected Lands are mining or activities related to mining. Although in some instances, the activities do not require authorization under the Mining Laws (for example, lands that will serve as buffer) and are not subject to regulation under the Subpart 3809 regulations. The SEIS will provide a description of foreseeable uses to the extent they can reasonably be determined based on current knowledge about Asarco’s future operations.

What activities will occur on the Offered Lands?

If the exchange is approved, the Offered Lands would be managed by BLM to preserve and enhance environmental resource values through resources analysis, habitat protection, recreation and access management, etc. The lands would be managed under guidance of the Kingman Area and Tucson Area Resource Management Plans (RMP).

What BLM regulations and guidelines oversee the Land Exchange process?

Land exchanges are generally conducted under the authority contained in Sections 102, 205, 206 and 207 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA, 90 Stat. 2743; 43 U.S.C. 1715, 1716 and 1717). FLPMA was amended in 1988 by the Federal Land Exchange Facilitation Act (FLEFA, 102 Stat. 1087). FLEFA contains provisions to facilitate and expedite land exchanges by establishing uniform rules and regulations for appraisals, and procedures and guidelines for resolution of appraisal disputes.

The BLM Land Exchange Handbook H-2200-1 (Public) details the BLM land exchange processing steps. The handbook provides specific guidance for the consideration of land exchanges to ensure that statutory and regulatory requirements are followed and that the public interest is protected.

How are the Offered Lands comparable to the Selected Lands if they are dispersed around the state?

The Selected Lands are to be developed and used for mining activities. The Offered Lands will be acquired by the federal government for their natural resource values and because parcels are within or adjacent to wilderness areas and ACEC, lands containing riparian areas, and lands that serve as habitat for endangered species and other special category wildlife species. The Offered Lands are not comparable to the selected lands in any way except that they will be adjusted in size to have close to comparable monetary value before the trade is finalized. Separate and specific appraisals will be done for each property component and the valuation results will be calculated for each side of the exchange.  Our initial estimate is that the values of the Offered Lands are close to being equal.