US house passes legislation to swap copper-rich land for public lands

Washington D.C – The U-S House has passed legislation to swap copper-rich land in southeastern Arizona for a large swath of new public lands. Correspondent Matt Laslo reports from Washington that the House also defeated amendments to protect tribal lands in the region.

The bill gives British and Australian owned Resolution Copper more than twenty four hundred acres of land replete with copper. In exchange the government gets more than five thousand acres of new public lands. Democrats offered amendments to protect land sacred to Native Americans in the region and to steer eight percent of royalties to the U-S Treasury. All were defeated. Arizona Democrat Raul Grijalva opposed the bill.

"This legislation will take thousands of acres of healthy, protected, sacred public land and convert it into billions of corporate profits for two foreign mining companies."

Republicans argue the land swap will create thousands of jobs in Arizona. And Flagstaff Republican Congressman Paul Gosar - the bill's lead sponsor - says tribal leaders already lost their claim that the site is sacred.

"We've exhausted all that. You know they talk about relics and sacred sites. We've actually got, there's an exhaustive example of this and they actually challenged it in court and the courts upheld it. So we've gone through a court of law and doing our do diligence with this and times up. Times ready to go."

Arizona Republicans are optimistic the bill will pass the Senate because they say Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada favors the exchange.
For Arizona Public Radio, I'm Matt Laslo in Washington.