Media Contacts:Lydia Dennett, Deputy Director of Investigations at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), [email protected] or 202-347-1122; or Tim Farnsworth, Chief Communications Strategist at POGO, [email protected] or 202-550-9402.
(WASHINGTON)—Mining industry representatives attempted to use their connections at the Department of the Interior to influence the contents of the department’s critical minerals report and advocated for the rollback of longstanding rules limiting mining on public lands such as national parks, according to a new investigation by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).
POGO obtained documents through a Freedom of Information Act request which “offer a window into mining industry representatives’ efforts to influence the Interior Department’s development of the list beginning in the first month of the Administration and leading up to the President’s order for a new list.”
In December 2017, the U.S. Geological Survey at Interior released a report designating 23 minerals as critical to “a broad range of existing and emerging technologies, renewable energy, and national security.” That list, the department’s first on the matter since 1973, included minerals long considered vital to the U.S. and added new minerals to the list because of their use in emerging technologies.
However, the day after the release of the report, President Donald Trump issued an executive order demanding a new list from Interior and a report from the Commerce Department that would include “recommendations to streamline permitting and review processes” related to mining on federal lands.
In May 2018, the Interior Department released its revised list of critical minerals. POGO found that several minerals on the new list—uranium, helium, and potash—had never appeared on any similar lists previously developed by the Interior or Energy Departments, and that the justifications for including them on the list are dubious. Six of the new minerals are not on the Defense Department’s expansive and nearly duplicative list of “strategic materials.”
POGO also found that mining-industry representatives met with industry-friendly Interior Department officials before the release of the December 2017 critical minerals report. While the documents POGO obtained don’t explicitly show industry representatives pushing to add uranium, helium, or potash to the list, they do show the level of access the industry had with key Interior Department leadership.
Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that investigates and exposes waste, corruption, abuse of power, and when the government fails to serve the public or silences those who report wrongdoing.
We champion reforms to achieve a more effective, ethical, and accountable federal government that safeguards constitutional principles.