Report: Mining industry clout grows with lobbying, donations

NMA spent $4.8 million on federal lobbying last year, up from $1.1 million in 2000, the report notes. Donations from its two political action committees — COALPAC and MINEPAC — doubled over the decade to hit $915,000 in 2012.

CREW argued that activity has installed congressional roadblocks to new safety regulations and attempts to extract royalty payments for mining on federal lands.

Most of the donations have gone to Republicans and conservative outfits, with 18 of the top 20 congressional recipients belonging to the GOP. The top three beneficiaries are House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) raked in fourth-largest contribution, which came solely from MINEPAC, CREW said. 

The report argues those contributions impede efforts to change the General Mining Act of 1872. That law exempts mining firms from paying royalties on what they extract from federal lands, though they pay taxes and fees required by the law.

Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Tom Udall (N.M.) are working on a bill that would force mining firms to pay royalties, the report notes. It estimated some proposals could generate as much as $2 billion in federal revenues.

CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said the mining lobby stands in the way of those sorely needed dollars.

“The federal giveaway to the mining industry would be an outrage at any time, but it is ironic that even in light of the current budget debacle, Congress can’t agree to scrap an 1872 law preventing the government from raising hundreds of millions — if not billions — of dollars in revenue,” Sloan said in a Wednesday statement.

NMA did not respond.