[Note: only the first page of this newsletter is available.]
Vol. XVIII, No. 4
Summer, 1980

Copper and the Economy

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.


Previous Report: Summer, 1980 (Pima Co.) -- Of Water Land and Air
Next Report: Summer, 1980 (Santa Cruz Co.) -- Ambos Nogales: 'Un Lugar Muy Especial'


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