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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the Rio Tinto Resolution Copper Site Visit Roundtable in Phoenix, Arizona

AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Introduced by Andrew Lyle, Project Director, Resolution Copper.

Thank you, Andrew, for that kind introduction, and for welcoming me to what will soon be North America’s largest copper production facility. It is great to be here with all of you, at one of the largest untapped copper deposits in the world.

And my thanks to Mayor Mila Besich for joining us this morning. Your work has been instrumental to ensuring your community’s prosperity over the next 60 years of this future mine’s expected copper supply.

A warm welcome also to the members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe and the United Steel Workers. I look forward to hearing your feedback during our discussion today as you work together with community leaders to move this project forward and provide jobs for your communities.

Resolution Copper’s progress is encouraging as we rise out of the challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and advance through economic recovery. Your state is a mineral producing powerhouse, generating 68 percent of all U.S. copper, and leading the nation in copper production since 1910. Arizona copper mining already adds $4.8 billion to the economy annually and supports 52,000 jobs in your state. And when the Resolution Copper mine comes online it is expected to produce up to $61 billion in economic value for Arizona over the 60-year life of the project, adding an estimated $24 billion to local, state, and federal tax revenues.

The U.S. has a special appreciation for global enterprises like Rio Tinto, that choose to engage in projects like this one on our shores. I well remember when your company met with me in 2017 and explained the 10-year challenge you already had endured as you sought the permits to enable you to make this huge investment.

That was one of the major reasons why President Trump moved so aggressively to reduce the red tape involved in such projects. We are grateful for your $2 billion dollar investment in the project here to date, and for your forthcoming $11 billion investment in the mine’s construction.

Thanks in large part to the President’s pro-growth policies, the United States is home to more foreign direct investment than any other country in the world. Believe it or not, it totals $4.34 trillion. That’s trillion with a big T. That’s a lot, even by Washington’s standards.

FDI supports more than 7.4 million U.S. jobs, with more than 113,000 of them in Arizona. And the Resolution Copper project is expected to add another 3,700 here, paying $134 million in wages and benefits each year. Scheduled to break ground in the very near term, it looks like it will supply 20 percent of U.S. copper demand. So it’s huge.

This is critical timing as U.S. manufacturers focus more attentively on reshoring production in the wake of the COVID-19 emergency and resulting supply chain disruption. And the mine here will also produce critical mineral byproducts including rhenium and gallium, which support our nation’s energy, telecommunications, advanced electronics, and military infrastructures.

Importantly last week, President Trump signed an Executive Order addressing the threat to the domestic supply chain from reliance on critical minerals from foreign potential adversaries. Currently, the United States is import-dependent on most of these critical minerals. For 31 of the 35 critical minerals, the United States imports more than half of its annual consumption. So we are very, very vulnerable to foreign suppliers. And United States has no domestic production for 14 of the critical minerals and is completely dependent on imports to supply its demand.

As part of the signing, the President declared a National Emergency to expand the domestic mining industry, support mining jobs, alleviate unnecessary permitting delays, and reduce our Nation’s dependence on China for critical minerals. The Order begins the process for the Department of the Interior to develop a program to use its authorities under the Defense Production Act to fund mineral processing – like the kind that will take place here – that supports our national security.

As the Administration and your local governments continue to support a public-private cooperation with Rio Tinto, I am eager to hear updates on the permitting process and how we can continue our work with you on behalf of Arizona workers.

This week I announced that we have renegotiated a new 20-year agreement that will bolster the U.S. uranium mining and processing industries by reducing Russian exports to our country.

And before I close, I would be remiss if I did not mention how essential it is for everyone to complete the Census. The Census Bureau is part of the Department of Commerce.

To date, Pinal County’s self-response rate is 58.2 percent. And 52.8 percent and 50.1 percent of residents in Superior and Florence, respectively, have self-responded so far. This is well below Arizona’s average self-response rate of 63.9 percent.

So Mayor Besich and Mayor Walters, you must really push hard alongside County Supervisor Rios to engage with your workers, your community organizations, and your local governments to stress the importance of going online and filling out the form. The results of the Census will determine the allocation of trillions of dollars in federal funding over the next ten years. The disbursal of future housing, healthcare, and educational funds are all determined by the 2020 Census. We don’t want Pinal County and Superior and Florence to be short-changed.

So please, please respond today at 2020census.gov. It takes only about six minutes to fill out the form, and it will pay dividends to your community every year for the next ten years. Self-responding online also saves an enumerator a trip to your home to administer the Census in-person.

You may not know that I was once a census-taker in 1960 while I was working my way through school. It was one of my very first jobs, so as you can imagine, the Census effort remains close at heart for me. This year, we have a 99.7 percent national total response rate, and more than 145 million total households have been counted in the 2020 Decennial Census so far.

And to our tribal leaders in attendance, the Census Bureau is working with more than 1,700 Native American partner organizations across the country to ensure all in your communities are counted. I encourage you to visit the National Congress of American Indians’ website, indiancountrycounts.org for additional resources that encourage participation from your Native citizens.

I hope that I’ve inspired those of you here today who haven’t responded yet to do so today at 2020census.gov.

Now, I look forward to our discussion, and to touring the Core Processing Facility and East Plant with you later this morning.

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