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Mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP are continuing to engage with Native American tribes as they seek permission to develop the Resolution copper project in Arizona, the United States.

Gaining permissions, including from Native American tribes, is a key step in the two companies’ decision on whether to fully invest in the advancement of the proposed underground mine.

Rio Tinto and BHP have released the final independent environmental impact statement (EIS) which is now subject to 45 days of further public review and comment.

After this period, the United States Forest Service will issue a final record of decision, which will see the companies progress permits with other authorities while continuing a feasibility study that will be conducted over several years.

Approving a land swap for Rio Tinto and BHP to build the mine is one of the departing United States President’s outgoing administration plans, according to Reuters.

Resolution Copper Mining is 55 per cent owned by Rio Tinto and 45 per cent by BHP, with both companies proportionately funding the project.

The Resolution project in Arizona is one of the world’s most significant undeveloped copper deposits and when complete, would supply up to a quarter of the United States’ copper demand.

The permitting process for Resolution started in 2013 and included a seven-year independent review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Rio Tinto chief executive copper and diamonds Arnaud Soirat said the company is committed to ongoing communication with local communities and Native American tribes to seek consent before making any decisions to invest in the project.

These discussions have led to major changes being made, including permanent protection of the culturally significant Apache Leap feature, a tribal monitor program focussing on protecting cultural heritage and a partnership to conserve culturally significant Emory Oak groves.

“Consultation with Native American tribes and local communities has led to significant changes to the project and shaped an extensive package of initiatives we expect to invest in across the mine’s life,” Soirat said.

“This is a starting point from which we are committed to continue building constructive relationships through ongoing dialogue with native American tribes.”