March 1 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Friday ruled that the federal government may give away thousands of acres in Arizona to Rio Tinto Plc for a copper mine, upholding a previous ruling and rejecting a request from Native Americans who said the land has religious and cultural import.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling essentially defers to a 2014 decision made by the U. S. Congress and then-President Barack Obama to give the land to Rio for its Resolution Copper project. (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Leslie Adler)