Natural Resources and Environment:

Mining on National Park Service Lands--What Is at Stake?

EMD-81-119S: Published: Dec 14, 1981. Publicly Released: Dec 14, 1981.

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GAO provided a supplement containing an analysis and response to the Department of the Interior's delayed comments on a draft report on mineral exploration and mining claims. GAO reviewed these comments at the request of the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Mines and Mining of the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Interior's comments were received too late to be incorporated into the final report and failed to address all the problems that GAO identified.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Despite repeated followups with pertinent congressional staff, no action will be taken.

    Matter: Congress should consider the need for the Federal Government to acquire additional information regarding the mineral potential of the Death Valley National Monument area. This information could be used for any future land use decision regarding the monument. In order to better understand the economic consequences of limiting mineral production in the monument area, Congress should consider returning the supply and marketing studies concerning borate and talc minerals developed by Interior for revision and updating.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Based on contact with congressional staff it is clear that no action is intended.

    Matter: Congress should base no decision on the Secretary of the Interior's recommendations submitted in 1979 to acquire mineral properties in Death Valley and Glacier Bay National Monuments. Before taking any action, Congress should await new recommendations by the Secretary based on more adequate analysis.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: An accomplishment report was submitted under another job code with similar recommendations.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should consider the need to consolidate all of the Interior mineral management functions under a single Assistant Secretary.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is no longer valid because of other reorganizations made within Interior.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should remove the mineral management functions, including the mineral examination function, from the National Park Service.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Based on discussions with National Park Service officials, no action will be taken.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should amend sections 9.9 and 9.10 of the regulations for mining on National Park Service lands to include an economic evaluation of the changes required for mining plan approval.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Based on contact with congressional staff, no action will be taken.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should notify Congress that Interior no longer supports the recommendations made in 1979 to Congress to acquire certain valid unpatented and patented mining claims in Death Valley and Glacier Bay National Monuments.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Interior stated in its Section 236 response that it is unnecessary to reexamine the need to acquire the mining claims because it does not intend to acquire them. According to recent conversations with Interior officials no action is intended.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should reexamine the need to acquire any mining claims in Death Valley and Glacier Bay National Monuments based on the progress to date in regulating mining activities to prevent adverse environmental effects and submit new recommendations to Congress.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Although in agreement with GAO, Interior has not yet taken any action. It is unlikely any action will be taken.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should insure that any future recommendations to Congress to acquire mineral properties on National Park Service lands be made only after determining what is at stake for all aspects of the public interest. Any recommendations should be based on site-specific analysis, acquisition cost estimates based on the best information available, and mineral supply and marketing analyses. This information should be developed in coordination with other pertinent Interior agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Mines, and the U.S. Geological Survey to insure a consistent Department policy position. In addition, a description of the methodologies and supporting data used to develop the information and any limitations on the use of that information should accompany the recommendations.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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