AUSTIN — As the country heads into a presidential election year, and as the mining industry has grown increasingly reliant on big government to deliver lucrative profits, a debate is brewing over whether it can survive in a Trump administration that is turning the country’s fortunes around.
A year ago, mining executives and industry leaders were talking about a Trump presidency, with some predicting that it would make the industry a more efficient and secure operation, and others warning that a Trump victory would put a strain on industry growth and undermine U.S. influence abroad.
As the presidential campaign approaches, those fears are growing louder.
The Trump administration is already threatening to shut down mining operations across the country and even close mines in Arizona.
And it is weighing a ban on all foreign mining in the United States, a move that could threaten billions of dollars in revenue for the industry.
“We are going to be a little bit nervous in the coming weeks, because the administration is trying to do things that they’re not necessarily comfortable with,” said Tom Beutler, a senior vice president for the National Mining Association, a trade group.
“The Trump administration’s approach to mining has not been conducive to economic growth.
The reality is, we are at a very critical time for the American mining industry, and it is going to get more difficult to get through.”
In recent weeks, the Trump administration has tried to limit mining on federal land and has sought to roll back mining rules in states where they have been implemented.
A top Trump adviser, Steve Bannon, told a conservative conference that the president “will get the miners of America out of the mines” if he wins.
On Thursday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee launched an online campaign calling for “a complete and total shutdown of mining operations throughout the country.”
The NRSC and other mining trade groups have been lobbying the Trump Administration to eliminate the mining restrictions on federal lands and in states that have passed them.
The industry is pushing back, too.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, a major food aid agency, said in a statement that it has urged the Trump Administrations Department of Agriculture and Department of Commerce to “immediately rescind the mining regulations that would impede the progress of the global food-security recovery.”
The Trump Administration has also proposed cutting subsidies to mining operations that have benefited the coal industry.
On Friday, the American Minerals Council, the trade group for mining companies, called for “the elimination of the mining tax exemption for new mining developments and the elimination of subsidies to existing mining projects.”
“The American people are watching these mining decisions closely and we are encouraged by the Trump’s continued efforts to protect American workers and American jobs,” said Alan Wessel, the president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Mine and Mineral Contractors.
“In addition, we have made clear to the Trump Admin.s that the American public is opposed to any attempts to weaken or restrict the power of the miners themselves and the miners’ union.
We have not received any indication that any mining tax relief is in the works.
But, we hope the Trumps Administration will take this opportunity to reverse this trend and ensure that our mining workers have the same protections they deserve.”
Beutlers warning from the mining world It’s not just mining executives that are worried.
The country’s top mining executives, as well as industry analysts, are warning of the impact of the incoming administration.
“This administration has the worst record of mining-related policymaking we’ve seen in a long time,” said Scott Waring, a mining industry analyst at the University of California, Irvine.
“It’s not a good track record of leadership, it’s not going to work, and that’s the problem.”
The administration is likely to be reluctant to give up on mining, given the potential impact on jobs and profits, Waring said.
“If you look at the mining and coal industries, if you look back, there have been some pretty good presidents who’ve been able to make these sort of gains,” Waring added.
While some industry leaders have voiced support for the mining business in the past, others have voiced concerns that Trump would undermine the industry’s economic growth efforts and take away mining jobs. “
That’s going to create some uncertainty, and the mining sector will likely feel a little nervous about how that will play out.”
While some industry leaders have voiced support for the mining business in the past, others have voiced concerns that Trump would undermine the industry’s economic growth efforts and take away mining jobs.
“I think the president is trying not to overreact,” said Jason Fagan, a spokesman for the International Minerals Congress, an industry group that represents some of the world’s biggest mining companies.
“You’re always going to have issues with the president on a lot of things.
But I think that the mining companies will be concerned with what he says.”
If Trump does try to curtail mining on national monuments, Fagan said, “I’d expect that we’ll see a lot more of a pushback by the mining groups, and certainly not just on national