by Pete Kasperowicz
26 October 2011
The House on
Wednesday approved legislation that would allow a land swap
between a foreign-owned mining company and the U.S. government,
which would allow the company to set up mining operations and
extract copper discovered in Arizona.
Just before the
final vote, Democrats argued that the bill should be altered
because the company in question, Resolution Copper Mining LLC,
is part-owned by Rio Tinto, which owns a stake in the Rossing
uranium mine in Namibia with the Iran Foreign Investment Company
(IFIC). Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) proposed changing the bill to
prevent any land exchange with a company or affiliate connected
with the IFIC.
Foreign Investment Company is wholly owned by the Iranian
regime, and last summer the Treasury Department added it to the
list of Iranian entities in violation of sanctions law," Deutch
said. "Quite simply, we are about to reward a company that
partners with the Iranian regime to mine, of all things, the
uranium it needs to become a nuclear-armed power."
no direct reply to the Democrats' charge, and in a brief
response, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) argued that nothing in the
law would prevent the U.S. from enforcing sanctions laws.
"Let me be
perfectly clear, and I'll say this as slowly as I can so that it
can be understood," Hastings said. "This bill does not waive any
economic sanction laws. All of those laws still stand."
motion to recommit the bill to add the Iran language failed in a
strict party-line 187-237 vote. The bill was approved
immediately afterwards in a mostly party-line vote of 235-186 —
in that vote, eight Republicans voted against the bill, and
seven Democrats voted for it.
legislation, H.R. 1904, Resolution Copper would give up nearly
5,350 acres of land, and get 2,422 acres on what is now the Oak
Flat Campground, where the copper mine would operate.
Republicans said during Tuesday's debate that the copper that
could be extracted from the mine could supply up to a quarter of
U.S. demand for the next 40 years.
pointed out several problems aside from Resolution Copper's link
to Iran. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they said there were no
assurances that the copper extracted would be used in the U.S.,
and that it instead could be sold to China or anyone else.
questioned Republican estimates that thousands of U.S. jobs
would be created by allowing the establishment of the mine.
Several noted that Rio Tinto mining operations have used
robotics, which would reduce the need for U.S. workers.
"Much of the
work that's gong to be done in this mine is going to be done by
robots," said Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). "So there will be full
employment for R2-D2 and for the Transformers, but the total
number of jobs here, very speculative."
seemed to be in disbelief that Democrats would think most of the
needed work would be done by robots.
honestly believe that passing this bill would create jobs only
for an army of robots?" asked Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.). "Are
you kidding me? Robots?"
votes, the House also rejected three Democrat amendments that
addressed some of the arguments they had against the bill. In a
189-233 vote, members killed language from Rep. Ben Lujan (D-N.M.),
to exclude all Native American sacred and cultural sites from
In a 173-238
vote, the House killed language from Markey that would require
Resolution Copper to pay an 8 percent royalty to the U.S. on all
minerals produced in commercial quantities from the new mine.
And by a 182-240
vote, the House rejected language from Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.)
to require Resolution Copper to maintain any remote operation
center in Arizona, seek to employ Arizonans, require all copper
to stay in the U.S., and ensure that all mining equipment is
made in the U.S.
passage, the bill moves to the Senate. If the strength of
opposition from House Democrats is any sign, Senate Democrats
may choose not to consider the bill at all. The White House had
not issued a Statement of Administration Policy on the bill
before the vote.