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Noem Votes to Grab Indian Land for Iran-Linked Foreign Copper Miners

Last month Congresswoman Kristi Noem followed her GOP House leaders and voted for HR 1904, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act. On the surface, HR 1904 seems like a pretty good deal: the federal government trades 2422 acres with valuable copper deposits for 5350 acres of land for conservation.

But dig deeper and you find Rep. Noem and the Republicans just made a decision that will cost them votes among Indians, Jews, folks concerned about losing our natural resources to foreign companies, and anybody who doesn't like Iran.

The land HR 1904 hands over for mining includes Apache Leap and the Oak Flat Campground, land considered sacred by local tribes. All Arizona tribes oppose this land exchange, as does the National Congress of American Indians. Rep. Ben Lujan of New Mexico moved to amend HR 1904 to exclude Native American sacred and cultural sites from the land swap, but Noem ignored tribal concerns and voted against that amendment.

HR 1904 hands over this copper-rich land to Resolution Copper, a joint venture of British-Australian Rio Tonto and Australian-Anglo-Dutch BHP-Billiton. Our copper ends up in foreign hands. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona moved to amend HR 1904 to keep that copper in the U.S. Rep. Noem voted against that amendment.

Rio Tonto also just happens to do business with the Iran Foreign Investment Company, which is wholly owned by the Iranian government and thus subject to U.S. sanctions. IFIC invests big money in Rio Tonto's Rössing uranium mine in Namibia. Rio Tonto eagerly defends Iran's investment in the Rössing mine. House Democrats tried to recommit HR 1904 to add language prohibiting a land exchange with any company that does business with Iran. Rep. Noem voted against that safeguard and voted to hand over valuable American copper deposits to a company supporting Iranian investment in uranium.

Rep. Noem might have wanted to do more than grab Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a photo op last May. She might have wanted to get the Israeli perspective on why doing business with Iran is bad. Her South Dakota Republican friends could have helped: South Dakota Republicans like Senator Dan Lederman and Representative Patricia Stricherz have made some political hay fighting for legislation to keep South Dakota money from benefiting Iran even indirectly. Noem has apparently forgotten whatever logic motivated her support for that legislation in 2010.

So let's count up the score: Rep. Kristi Noem votes for a copper mine that makes foreign mining corporations happy. In the process, she loses the Indian vote, the Jewish and pro-Israel vote, the Iran hawk vote, and the American mineral security vote. Noem is clearly vying for the "Dumbest Votes of the Year" award. The prize for that achievement: losing 58-42 next year to Jeff Barth or Matt Varilek.


  1. mike 2011.11.14

    Varilek will certainly know the issues but I wonder if he he will appeal to a broad swath of voters?

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.11.14

    Varilek's appeal: I suspect he's asking himself that question right now. Is he any less palatable than Kristi? Or does he need to get a horse?

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