|As the sale of American-made automobiles
continued to slump at the beginning of June, the nation's copper industry
was feeling the effect: fewer automobiles mean less demand for copper.
As this newsletter is written, copper is selling
for between 89¢ and 90¢ a pound. That's down from the record high of a
year or so ago of about $1.40, and while the state of the industry may
not be booming, it remains far away from the depressed state it has faced
in past years.
In fact, copper mines have been operating at near
capacity and demand has remained strong. Prices have dipped from the levels
reached last February, but they are still close to the prices of a year
ago, which followed a gradual climb from much lower levels.
Our capitalist, free enterprise American economy
is composed of interlocking parts. The parts depend on each other, and
when one part is shaky, we can all expect to feel some effect.
As far as copper is concerned, there have been
no massive layoffs of miners, no closures of mines. And we all want to
see it stay that way.
What the future holds for the copper industry
in today's uncertain economy is anyone's guess. That can't be predicted
with much accuracy.
But one prediction I can make is that what affects
the copper industry does affect the way many in the Congress view their
responsibility about what needs to be done to help. Copper is absolutely
vital to Arizona, and to the economy of the entire United States.
A Record of Help
Back in 1977, to provide an example, the ill health
then of the copper industry changed my thinking about some proposed revisions
in the Mining Law of 1872. In 1977, the copper industry faced its most
serious and depressed situation in decades.
A good landlord (in this case, the federal government)
does not force a reliable tenant to renegotiate his lease when he's been
laid off and his house is on fire. In 1977, I decided not to press forward
with a bill
|that might, even psychologically,
have delayed stabilization and recovery.
That seemed a proper course then. It seems a proper
course now. What happens to the copper industry can't be taken lightly,
and I reject the view that when a friend is in trouble there is nothing
that can be done.
A year or so ago, I joined Barry Goldwater, John
Rhodes and other members of the Arizona delegation to push for a copper
stockpiling measure. That would have enabled the government to buy more
copper to increase our strategic reserves. There would have been double
benefits: the country would have improved its security and the copper industry
could have eased some economic hardship. The measure remains in limbo,
although it remains one of our common concerns and could come up again.
Other battles are still in progress. One that
immediately comes to mind is the one involving Environmental Protection
Agency clear air standards and the copper smelters. I think we all want
clean air for ourselves and our children and the people who operate the
smelters share that view. But we also want government regulations that
promote broad public purposes without putting people out of work. I think
we can have clean air and jobs, and that's one more area where all of us
come down on the same side.
Some Arizonans may still think of copper mining
as something limited to a handful of smaller towns scattered across Southern
Arizona, an industry that has little, if any impact on anyone beyond copper
miners and some local merchants.
The truth is that copper mining affects businesses
and citizens in every part of Arizona. If a miner and his family drive
to Tucson to shop for something they might not be able to find at home,
it means business for Tucson, for a Tucson merchant, for a trucker who
delivered those retail goods, and right on down the line.
And if that industry is in trouble, eventually
all of us will feel it.
Similarly, the stake all Arizonans have in the
health of the copper industry can be extended to the factories of the Midwest
and Northeast United States.