Levy on gold could be budget windfall, U.S. lawmakers say

Wed Dec 12, 2012 8:49am EST
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* Lawmakers want taxpayer stake in mining boom

* No royalties paid or records kept under current rules

* Reform could mean billions in new revenue

By Patrick Rucker

WASHINGTON, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Revising a 19th-century U.S. law that governs the mining of gold and other precious metals could add billions of dollars to federal coffers at a time of tight budgets, according to some Democratic lawmakers and a government study released on Wednesday.

Taxpayers receive no royalties on metals pulled from federal land, and officials drew a blank when they tried to find out how much gold, silver, copper and other valuable metal is sold.

"Federal agencies generally do not collect data from hardrock mine operators," said the Government Accountability Office report, which looked at the market in 2010 and 2011.

But applying a metals levy of 12.5 percent - the benchmark government share for other resources - could deliver hundreds of millions of dollars a year to taxpayers, according to independent studies and U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva, who sought the report and other data from the mining industry.

"As we face these fiscal challenges, these are the pennies that we should pinch," said Grijalva of Arizona, the leading Democrat on the panel that oversees public lands.   Continued...