Washington, D.C. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, ranking member of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, today highlighted a series of House Republican votes against guaranteeing jobs from a proposed copper mine in Arizona going to local labor, against ensuring that no domestic uranium be sold to Iran through foreign-owned subsidiary companies, and against protecting American Indian rights when mining claims impact Tribal territory.
The votes came on H.R. 1904, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2011 – Rep. Paul Gosar’s (R-Ariz.) bill to force the federal government to trade public land to the foreign-owned Resolution Copper company, where it would begin a large mining operation – and on related amendments introduced by Rep. Grijalva and other Democratic opponents. The Grijalva amendment, introduced with Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), would have mandated:
One of Resolution’s parent companies, Rio Tinto, has deep corporate ties to Utah and a long history of supplying raw materials to foreign competitors. The company co-owns a uranium mine in Namibia with the Iranian national energy company, which is wholly operated by the national government. The Democratic alternative to H.R. 1904, formally called a “motion to recommit,” sought to mandate that any commercial entity in an economic partnership with the Iranian government cannot acquire federal land, essentially extending current sanctions on Iran to protect public resources. The Republican majority defeated the bill.
“This was a straightforward question of who will benefit economically if this land swap goes through, and Rep. Gosar and his Republican allies voted it down,” Grijalva said. “This bill is a sweetheart deal at taxpayer expense for a company that has never guaranteed it will create Arizona jobs or keep its product in the United States. My amendment only sought to mitigate some of the worst elements. If those minimal changes are unacceptable, we have to wonder what the real agenda is in pushing this giveaway forward.”
Under the Mining Law of 1872, Resolution Copper – co-owned by BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, both incorporated in Australia – would pay no royalties to the public on the value of any copper extracted from the land being traded away. Rep. Gosar and other supporters have touted the number of jobs the bill would create by citing company job creation estimates, which have inexplicably ballooned from 450 when the plan was first announced six years ago to more than 4,000 today.
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) offered an amendment to H.R. 1904 that would have exempted all Native American sacred and cultural sites from the land conveyance, and Rep. Ed Markey introduced an amendment to require, as a condition of the land exchange, that Resolution Copper pay an 8 percent royalty to the United States on minerals produced on the land received in the exchange. Resolution Copper estimates the value of the copper ore at several billion dollars. The Republican majority defeated both amendments.
“The only people H.R. 1904 helps are the foreign owners of Resolution Copper,” Grijalva said after the vote. “This isn’t about building American industrial capacity or helping Arizona in a down economy. This is about trading away valuable public resources to a company likely to send the profits overseas, hire out of state, and sell the copper to the highest global bidder. If anyone wants to have an honest debate about why that’s good for Arizona or the rest of the country, I’m ready.”