Tell the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to say No to S 409

Wednesday, June 17th, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will be holding a hearing on S. 409, a piece of special interest legislation that would mandate and land exchange that would solely benefit Rio Tinto and BHP-Billiton – two of the largest foreign mining companies in the world.  The bill has been introduced by Arizona Senators McCain and Kyl.

The bill would short circuit the usual and customary process all mining companies go through to get mining permits in the US.  Instead, the bill would allow the companies to get a free pass from these federal laws and to mine in the most destructive way possible, a copper ore body below Oak Flat Campground.

Oak Flat campground was placed off limits to mining in 1955 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and is a precious riparian area that is vital for area recreation and for the religious freedom of Native American tribes.

Please amend the sample letter below and ask Members of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, to oppose the land exchange to ensure these mining companies follow the law, keep our precious public land assets public, and to not restrict the freedom of religion – our most basic of human rights for Native American Tribes.

S. 409 is the latest in a series of previously failed attempts to carve out a special interest taxpayer bailout for these giant mining companies.

Talking points about the bill:

  • The bill tramples all over the religious and human rights of Native American Tribes.  (all Arizona Tribes are opposed to the land exchange bill).
  • It is special interest legislation that would allow two of the biggest mining companies in the world – who especially do not need another government handout – to bypass the normal procedure all mining companies go through to get mines approved.
  • It gives away precious public land to these mining companies without any look at the mine design or the consequences of mining to the area landscape.
  • It overrides an Executive Order made by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to make Oak Flat Campground off limits to mining.  This set up a dangerous precedent.
  • The “NEPA” and royalty sections of the bill are pure greenwashing and are meaningless.
  • S 409 flies in the face of everything Senator Bingaman is trying to do in S. 796, a bill to finally reform the 1872 Mining Law.

Sample letter:

Dear Senator,

On June 17th the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will be holding a hearing on S. 409, the “Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2009.”  This misleading title would suggest that this bill serves the public good, however, it does the opposite.  S. 409 would only benefit two huge foreign mining companies and would be a taxpayer rip-off.  I urge you to oppose S. 409.

Resolution Copper Company, a foreign wholly-owned subsidiary of international mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, is planning a massive block-cave mine and seeks to acquire Oak Flat Campground, Apache Leap, and the surrounding public lands for its use through this land exchange bill.  If they succeed, the campground and an additional 2,300 acres of the Tonto National Forest will become private property and forever off limits to recreationists and other users, and the public will lose a campground that has been protected from mining for more than 50 years.  Privatization of this land would end public access to some of the most spectacular outdoor recreation and wildlife viewing areas in Arizona and cause massive surface subsidence leaving a permanent scar on the landscape and eliminating the possibility of a diversified economy for the region.

In addition, this land exchange would circumvent the public process mandated under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for prior analysis of any project on federal public lands and possible alternatives.  This analysis would include the impact mine operations would have on the health of nearby residents, on water quality, air quality, transportation, and the overall environment.  All other mining companies wanting to mine in the United States use this process.  However, Rio Tinto and BHP are seeking to circumvent this process by going straight to Congress for a land swap.  While they have thrown some window-dressing into the bill calling for environmental studies after the fact, these aspects of the bill do not address our concerns nor do they in any way address the requirements of the NEPA, which is a “look-before-you-leap” law. This bill allows the leap and you can do nothing more than look back and regret.

In addition, by rushing the land exchange through before completing the NEPA process, the bill would trample the human rights of local Native American tribes because the bill would allow the federal government to give away land critical to their religion to a foreign mining company.


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