About 1,600 people winter here, largely retirees who tend to be white, Republican, and relatively well-off. About half stay year-round, including some former miners who once worked in the area’s mining towns, which hit tough times when copper prices collapsed in the 1980s. Now prices are rising, and so is controversy regarding the proposed Resolution Copper Mine outside the former mining town of Superior, 16 miles away.
The project has spurred deep divisions there. Many believe that the mine — a partnership between global giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton — will revive Superior. Others argue that outsiders will get most of the jobs and the project will destroy beautiful canyons and cliffs; the “block-cave” method of underground mining can cause significant subsidence. Resolution is pushing Congress to pass a land-swap bill, long championed by Republican Senator John McCain, that would give it ownership of a parcel of federal land — including a popular campsite — crucial to its proposed mine.