PHOENIX — A federal official has authorized a company planning a new copper mine near Superior in east-central Arizona to do work to gather information to help evaluate possible construction of a large tailings storage facility.

The Tonto National Forest announcement Thursday says Forest Supervisor Neil Bosworth approved an environmental assessment and an operations plan this week.

The announcement says Resolution Copper Mining LLC may construct wells and test pits and do other work related to groundwater and soil.

The announcement also says the approvals don’t authorize construction of the facility to handle tailings, which are waste materials from mines, and the approved activities are outside the Oak Flat area of the planned underground mine.

The project has drawn criticism over environmental and cultural concerns, while Resolution has said the project will boost the state’s economy and include environmental protections.