The Impact of Antitrust Enforcement on the Country's Minerals Posture

Gao ID: EMD-82-11 October 7, 1981

Increasing concern has been expressed about the ability of the U.S. minerals industries to develop, process, and obtain continuous access to minerals needed to satisfy the Nation's industrial requirements. In response to this concern, H.R. 3364 was introduced. The bill proposes the creation of a Council on Minerals and Materials within the executive branch and several other measures that would help to establish a national minerals policy. Title VIII of the bill would require the Attorney General to review the U.S. antitrust laws, rules, and regulations to determine their effect on the productivity and profitability of the domestic mining and minerals industries. In connection with title VIII, GAO was requested to conduct a preliminary review of antitrust enforcement as it relates to the minerals industries, in order to draw conclusions on the feasibility of a broader based study.

GAO found that there has not been a significant number of nonfuel-minerals, industry-related antitrust cases litigated at the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice over the last several years. In addition, officials in the nonfuel-minerals industries generally do not view antitrust enforcement as a serious obstacle to their activities. Although the findings do not rule out a more detailed study of antitrust impact on the minerals industries, as title VIII of H.R. 3364 proposes, GAO believes that such a study would encounter two major difficulties: (1) methodology that would be hard to develop; and (2) results that could not readily be applied to all minerals industries because of each industry's uniqueness. However, GAO found two matters related to antitrust enforcement which should be examined further to determine whether they impact on the minerals industries and U.S. industries in general. These matters include the following: (1) the business review procedure has not been accepted by private industry, and (2) private, treble-damages suits are proliferating.

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