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Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Chairman, I thank my friend and colleague for yielding that time.

Well, another day, another giveaway. Pretty ironic: here we are, we're about to get into a massive fight over whether or not we should increase the debt limit of the United States or default on our obligations, which involves many trillions of dollars, and today we're going to give away a taxpayer asset that is worth billions of dollars. We're going to give it away. Oh, we're going to get some pretty land in exchange. That's valuable. That's nice. But, you know, for many billions of dollars, we could probably buy a lot more land if we wanted it, or we could have a little debt reduction.

I had a simple amendment. My amendment would have said that we would charge an 8 percent royalty. Eight percent of the value of the copper coming from these publicly-owned lands would be paid to the Treasury of the United States of America. And guess what? The Republicans didn't allow the amendment. What are they afraid of? They're afraid that maybe some of their Tea Party types over there might vote for it? You want to run government like a business, don't give away assets. That's what we're doing here. You would still get the jobs.

Now, you know, this bill contains sort of a bizarre--they're saying, oh, we're going to get some money maybe, sort of, kind of. Except Treasury--nobody can interpret the language of this bill. It's a rather unique and very speculative--potential, future, possible--payment scheme, which would be controlled entirely by the company using proprietary information. Of course they're going to volunteer to pay money. Yeah, I don't think so. It's not going to happen.

So we're going to trade away a multibillion-dollar asset for a few thousand acres of recreation land. I would say on any other day I wouldn't hear from the Republican side of the aisle that that was a good idea--give away billions of dollars of Federal assets for some recreation lands.

Now, this isn't about the surface. It's just about the fact that Rio Tinto, a foreign corporation, is not going to pay anything, or very little, for the value of the minerals that are extracted from this land. In fact, I understand that they've pretty much stopped any other exploration around the world because this is the richest copper load in North America, one of the richest in the world. They don't want to go to these other piddly places where they've been--Indonesia, Australia and all that. They're just focusing all their energy for copper right here.

And guess where the copper is going to go after it's mined and after they don't pay anything to us for taking it out of the ground? It's going to go to China. Foreign corporation, ship it to China. Yeah, we'll get some jobs. And if they paid a royalty, we would still get the jobs and we would make the taxpayers whole.

Now, the oil and gas industry pays 12.5 percent royalty to the government for the value of the resources they extract. Why shouldn't the mining industry pay? Well, they don't pay because we're operating under an 1872 law signed by Ulysses S. Grant. That's what governs mining here. Now, come on. It's time to update that law. And if they don't want to update the law, they could at least begin to charge some royalties for the extraction of these minerals.

We have given away billions of dollars of gold mines to foreign corporations--platinum, everything. Now we're going to give away our greatest copper resource to a foreign corporation with no royalties, no charge--and they will shelter most of their earnings overseas. They will pay little, if anything, in U.S. taxes. Yes, their employees will pay taxes--oh, they will pay taxes. Yeah, of course. We're going to extract that out of the employees, but the company isn't going to pay. They will find a way to shelter that overseas. It's a foreign corporation.

This is outrageous, absolutely outrageous. There are the issues regarding the environmental waivers and the other things that Mr. Grijalva talked about. We are going to evaluate this after the asset is transferred to the mining company. The mining company will some day go through this bizarre speculative scheme and they might pay us something in the future.

Let's have a plain and simple and fair 8 percent royalty, make the taxpayers whole and run this government a little bit more responsibly, guys.


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