Democratic presidential nomination candidate Bernie Sanders has stepped up his campaign against a joint venture between Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton to build an $8bn copper mine in Arizona.
Jane Sanders, wife of the Vermont senator whose nomination campaign has drawn significant national and international attention in recent months, visited the Native American camp ground at Oak Flat, near the site of the planned copper mine.
Mrs Sanders, visiting Oak Flat as a campaign stop, told locals she was pleased to see what they had been fighting for, according to several reports.
“It’s not just rocks and land and water,” she was quoted as saying. “We could feel a spiritual connection there.”
Senator Sanders has led the campaign against the proposed copper mine for some time.
He, along with Wisconsin democrat Tammy Baldwin, introduced legislation in November last year, which Sanders said would stop the transfer of federal land to a foreign-owned corporation, which plans to develop “the largest copper mine in North America”.
“Too many times our Native American brothers and sisters have seen the profits of huge corporations put ahead of their sovereign rights,” Sanders said last year.
“It is wrong that a backroom deal in Washington could lead to the destruction of a sacred area that is so important to so many.
“We must defend the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are standing in opposition to this giveaway of our natural resources to foreign corporations.”
Through a joint venture business, Resolution Copper, Rio and BHP plan to mine an inferred resource of more than 1.7 billion metric tons containing 1.52% copper.
With a production target of mid-2020, the mine is expected to produce the most copper of any operation in North America, supplying more than half a million metric tons of copper every year, for decades.
Resolution Copper has spruiked the project to the local and national audience by promoting an estimated US$61.4bn in economic value over the life of the mine (roughly 64 years), US$20bn in federal, state, county and local tax revenues, and 3700 direct, indirect and induced jobs creating US$220.6m in annual wages.