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BLM > Arizona > What We Do > Lands & Realty > Land Tenure > Ray Land Exchange Supplemental EIS >About the SEIS
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Ray Land Exchange SEIS
About the SEIS

The public lands selected for acquisition (Selected Lands) are within and adjacent to Asarco’s Ray Mine Complex and Copper Butte properties near Kearny, Arizona. These include approximately 8,196 acres of lands where both the surface and mineral estate are administered by the BLM, and approximately 2,143 acres of mineral estate only lands (where the surface estate is owned by Asarco and the mineral estate is administered by the BLM). The Selected Lands also include approximately 637 acres of BLM mineral estate lands near Casa Grande, Arizona.

These Selected Lands total approximately 10,976 acres. Asarco has mining and mill site claims covering virtually all of the Selected Land parcels. Because of these claims, Asarco is expected to conduct mining operations on the Selected Lands under the General Mining Law regardless of the land exchange.

The Safford and Phoenix Resource Management Plans must be amended for this exchange to take place.  The amendments would change the land tenure designation from "retention" to "disposal" for 10,339 acres.

Ray Land Exchange/Plan Amendment SEIS

In exchange for the Selected Lands, the BLM would acquire 7,304 acres of Asarco’s private land that the BLM has identified as desirable for public ownership. These lands, identified as the Offered Lands, are considered to have important resource values and include lands within or adjacent to wilderness areas and Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, lands containing riparian areas, and lands that serve as habitat for endangered species and other special-category wildlife species, such as the desert tortoise.

Offered Lands Parcel Description

Gila River at Cochran Parcel

 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 

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

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

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 Mountain Herd Management Area
  • Xeroriparian vegetation includes ironwood, catclaw, foothill paloverde and jojoba

Tomlin Parcels

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

Selected Lands Parcel Description

The existing conditions and foreseeable uses for the Selected Lands vary by parcel. Conditions range from parcels containing existing mining, parcels adjacent to mining, and parcels with no current mining activity. 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.

Ray Mine Parcels

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

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 is owned by a third party

Why is the BLM doing an SEIS?

The Ray Land Exchange was 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. The CBD prevailed 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 CFR § 1502.9(c); BLM NEPA Handbook § 5.3). No new lands have been added to the Ray Land Exchange.

The BLM is beginning the environmental analysis required for the SEIS and plans to publish the Draft SEIS in 2014. See the schedule for the SEIS process.