WASHINGTON — Because of a law passed during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, the federal government does not collect royalties from gold, silver, copper and other minerals extracted from public land, a source of revenue that could potentially generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the federal budget, government auditors reported Wednesday.
Although the government collects billions of dollars in royalties from fossil fuels extracted from federal lands and waters, it does not even collect information from hard-rock mine operators about the amount or value of the minerals they take from public land because there are no royalty requirements, according to the report by the Government Accountability Office.
The report was undertaken at the request of Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.). Grijalva is cosponsor of a House bill that would set a 12.5% royalty rate on hard-rock minerals.
"There's a simple legislative fix for this big hole in the federal government's revenue stream, and it's only fair that companies benefiting from access to public lands pay their fair share," Grijalva said. "Congress should make sure disclosure is a priority, and then we can talk about how to make sure the American people financially benefit from the sale of public minerals the way they should have been all along."