It’s an election year in the US, and the current administration has made some big promises for the mining industry – particularly coal mining – and in 2018 the Trump administration repealed Obama-era climate legislation that stifled the nation’s coal industry. But how is the mining sector exerting its influence on political decisionmakers in the run-up to the November 2020 election, and how does this differ from previous election cycles?
Donations from mining sector interests in the US overwhelmingly fund Republican candidates and interests. From the 2012 election cycle onwards, at least 90% of the mining industry’s political donations have gone to the GOP. In the 2016 cycle, not a single Democrat broke the top 20 recipients of mining industry funding.
The 2016 election saw the mining industry’s second-highest contribution total, at almost $17.5m, trailing behind 2012’s total of $23m. President Trump’s 2016 candidacy took less than $361,000 from mining interests, compared with almost $1.5m taken by Mitt Romney four years prior. As the election cycle ramps up over the summer, we’ll see whether Trump’s friendliness to the coal industry pays dividends for his re-election war chest.
Here, Mining Technology takes a look at the lobbying and funding going into US politics, and the top donors to US election campaigns.
Pebble Mine is the largest known undeveloped copper ore body in the world, and also holds significant deposits of gold and molybdenum. It was estimated that Pebble contains over $300bn worth of recoverable metals in early 2010. The proposed mine at the site in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska is highly controversial, with opponents citing significant disruption to the environment as well as the salmon and fishing industries in the region.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political donations and lobbying in politics, lobbying on behalf of the Pebble Limited Partnership forms the most significant lobbyist activity in Washington, DC for the mining sector. Just under $1.6m was spent on lobbying for the Pebble mine in 2019, adding to a total of more than $11m spent since 2007.
The mine is unpopular among Alaskans, and groups including the Natural Resource Defense Council oppose its construction. An increase in year-on-year spending to sway DC officials into supporting the mine since 2016 signifies that Pebble’s proponents sense favourable conditions in pushing the project through under the Trump administration.