WASHINGTON (JTA) — House Democrats failed in their attempt to block a bill that they say allows a stake in the largest U.S. copper mine to an Iranian-affiliated mining company.
The bill, backed by Arizona’s Republican delegation, would swap public lands in Arizona with lands owned by Resolution Copper, allowing for the establishment of the largest copper mine in the United States.
Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday mounted a vigorous offense against the bill, saying that Resolution Copper was owned by London-based Rio Tinto, and that that company is partnered with the Iran Foreign Investment Company in mining uranium in Namibia.
"The Iran 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,” Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) said during debate on his motion to return the bill to committee. “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.”
Deutch’s motion failed along party lines, 237-187.
Officials at Rio Tinto said that the Iranian company has held a 15 percent stake in the Namibia mine, Rossing, since 1975, before the Islamic takeover in Iran; that Iran is banned access to nuclear technology at the mine and to its uranium; and that its dividends have been put into a trust.
A spokeswoman for Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), who sponsored the original bill, did not return requests for comment.