Natural Resources and Environment:

Review of the Bureau of Land Management's Administration and Use of Mining Maintenance Fees

AIMD-00-184R: Published: Jun 2, 2000. Publicly Released: Jun 30, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) administration and use of mining maintenance fees, focusing on: (1) whether BLM used Mining Law Administration Program (MLAP) fees to process mineral patent applications and whether this use was appropriate; and (2) the amount of MLAP fees collected by BLM in fiscal year (FY) 1998 and how BLM used these fees.

GAO noted that: (1) in FY 1998, BLM used MLAP fee funds to process various grandfathered patent applications, as authorized by the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for 1998; (2) during FY 1998, BLM collected over $28.8 million in MLAP fees, with BLM's Nevada State Office collecting approximately $14.8 million, approximately 51 percent of the total collections; (3) in the same year, MLAP reported obligations totalling $37.6 million; (4) GAO reviewed nine of BLM's administrative states and offices, as well as the Bureauwide account, to determine how the MLAP funds were used; (5) these nine states/offices and the Bureauwide account reported MLAP obligations of almost $27.8 million, representing over 74 percent of total MLAP obligations; (6) BLM classified these obligations as either labor or operational in purpose; (7) labor obligations for the nine states/offices and the Bureauwide account totalled over $18.6 million, representing almost 67 percent of total obligations; (8) the grade levels of BLM staff charging MLAP ranged between GS-1 and the Senior Executive Service, with staff from Grade Levels 9 through 12 charging the largest number of work hours--over 293,000--which is 55 percent of total work hours; (9) operational obligations for the nine states/offices and the Bureauwide account totalled almost $9.2 million, representing over 33 percent of total obligations; (10) these operational obligations included obligations for contracts/services, equipment, other, permanent change of station, rent, supplies/materials, telephones, travel, utilities, and vehicles; (11) over $3.9 million, 43 percent of total MLAP operational obligations, were used to fund various contracts/services; (12) during FY 1998, almost 68 percent of the total operational obligations GAO reviewed were used for activities directly related to MLAP operations, including collecting fees, recording claims, processing patent applications and plans of operation, and making surface inspections; and (13) 32 percent of total operational obligations were used for various support activities, including telephone services, utilities, and information services.

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