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Rocks for sale: Taxpayers being undercut on sale of federal mineral resources, watchdog warns
Question of the Day
The Interior Department has been missing out on a major payday by essentially letting private contractors take valuable minerals off government lands for drastically reduced prices, a new report says.
The agency’s Bureau of Land Management didn’t collect more than $1 million in fees from businesses that contracted with the government to remove minerals from federal lands, and lost another $846,000 because it didn’t adjust the prices of the contracts, said a report by Interior’s internal watchdog, the Inspector General.
Some parts of the bureau’s guidance for appraising minerals’ value is more than 25 years old, investigators said in a report released Monday.
The agency “has little assurance that it obtains market value for mineral materials sales,” the watchdog said.
“BLM’s mineral materials program generates approximately $17 million in revenue from public lands each year,” the IG said. “Management of the program, however, is challenged by outdated regulations and policies that hinder BLM’s ability to obtain adequate compensation for its mineral materials sales.”
Officials at the Interior Department said they were updating the pricing guidelines for minerals, and would increase oversight of contractors who buy minerals from federal lands. But, they warned, BLM’s resources are stretched thin.
“The mineral materials program has historically had limited funding and resources to address the expanding magnitude and scope of workloads,” a response from the agency said. “As a result, the BLM’s capacity to absorb further workloads is limited.”
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About the Author
Phillip Swarts is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times, covering fiscal waste, fraud and political ethics. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and previously worked as an investigative reporter for the Washington Guardian. Phillip can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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