By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Today, Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) asked a set of companies that profit from minerals on public lands to let American taxpayers see if they are getting a fair return. As ThinkProgress reported last month, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Grijalva sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking for a comparison of corporate profits and taxpayer benefits from mineral extraction on public lands. Because the GAO report will take over a year to complete, today Grijalva hastened the investigation and sent letters to 14 oil, gas, and mining companies asking them to outline the financial value of the leases on public lands that they own.
In the letters, Grijalva explained his rationale:
I believe in transparency and effective public regulations that balance corporate and taxpayer interests. As I’m sure you’ll agree, taxpayers deserve a full accounting of the economic activity that takes place on land they own, including the public financial benefits.
Grijalva continued in his press release:
Our mineral wealth and public lands belong to the American taxpayers and held in trust by the federal government, but for too long they’ve been handed out to private companies that only care about the short-term bottom line. It’s time they open their books to public scrutiny and show us how much they’re making from cheap leases and how much they’re giving back to the public.
By December 15, the companies are asked to provide a detailed analysis for fiscal year 2010 of: the value of the minerals extracted from public lands, the cost to lease the lands, the royalties and fees paid to American taxpayers, and the projected value of extraction on the public lands mineral leases the companies hold. Most mining companies are not required to pay a royalty to the federal government due to the 1872 Mining Law.
Companies on the list are not exhaustive of all of those that own public land mineral leases, but are a sample of the different corporate interests—oil, gas, coal, copper, gold, and others. They are: Alpha Natural Resources, Barrick Gold Company, BG Americas & Global LNG, BHP Billiton, BP America, CONSOL Energy, Denison Mines, ExxonMobil, Freeport McMoRan, Peabody Energy, Rio Tinto Minerals, Rio Tinto Copper, Shell Oil, and Total Holdings USA.
These letters asking about the profits of some of the wealthiest companies in the world comes just as the House of Representatives will be voting on a bill today to give the third-largest copper deposit in the world to a mining company, without any royalties or returns to the taxpayer from the mineral development. The Resolution Copper Company, which stands to benefit from Congressman Paul Gosar’s (R-AZ) bill facilitating the land transfer, is a multinational mining conglomerate owned by Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, both of which are on Grijalva’s list to receive letters about their profits.