Changing Ownership Within the U.S. Minerals Industry:

Possible Causes and Steps Needed To Determine the Effects

EMD-82-41: Published: Apr 26, 1982. Publicly Released: May 11, 1982.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO: (1) surveyed Federal agency officials, principal mineral industry representatives, and other industry experts to obtain their views and perceptions on the causes and effects of takeovers of independent mining companies by oil companies, other domestic conglomerates, and foreign enterprises; and (2) searched and surveyed literature to identify major Federal and nongovernmental studies of changing ownership trends in the U.S. mineral industry. GAO also reviewed available statistical information on mergers and acquisitions involving the metal mining and metal processing industries.

Although data problems associated with determining the ownership of the minerals industry exist, several trends have potential Federal policy implications. These include the loss of independent mineral and mining concerns to conglomerates, including oil company ownership, and the growing level of foreign investment in the minerals industry. Measuring the impact of these trends is extremely difficult. However, an ongoing Bureau of Mines study hopes to accumulate relevant data to assess the motives spurring minerals industry acquisitions and to gain an indication of the possible effects on industry performance. Current industry and expert opinions on the effects are subjective and varied. Further, concerns over the potential negative impacts are countered by arguments against interfering with the existing market forces. In short, there are potential benefits inherent in ownership trends as well as reasons for concern. Foreign investment in the mineral industry, although small in absolute terms, is more concentrated than in the rest of U.S. industry, and appears to be growing. No analysis on the effects of this investment on the industry has been done.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A June 1984 Department of Interior study on minerals ownerhip did not fully discuss the impact of foreign direct ownership because of lack of data. The report was submitted to Congress but did not comment on the need or means to obtain data on foreign ownership in the minerals industry.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should, while conducting the study on minerals industry ownership, specifically consider the impact of foreign direct investment on the minerals industry. Upon completion of the Bureau of Mines study, the Secretary of should report to the appropriate congressional committees: (1) what major effects were identified; (2) if and how the analysis was compromised by the lack of information; (3) whether there is a continued need for periodic assessment of ownership trends and effects; (4) if additional information collection authority would be needed to conduct future analysis; and (5) whether there is a specific need for increased monitoring and analysis of foreign direct investment in the minerals industry, as well as suggestions as to the means by which the executive branch should accomplish this.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior


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