I usually post the quarterly lobbying disclosures for Antofagasta’s Twin Metals project on Twitter, but I am taking a social media break. So here’s a quick post about what this quarter’s disclosures show.
Q1 2023 disclosures reflect a change in strategy after the actions taken last year by the Solicitor of the Interior, the Bureau of Land Management, and the US Forest Service. Lobbying of the executive branch has shifted to the Department of Energy. The focus of the lobbying is now around the energy transition, positioning Twin Metals as “a world-class project to provide the critical metals that a growing and greener world requires.” (That’s from the latest Antofagasta annual report).
It also looks as if the company is off to a slightly more modest start this year, committing a total of $180,000 for the first quarter of 2023. (In 2022, as I noted back in January, Antofagasta spent over 1 million dollars lobbying the US federal government for its project near the Boundary Waters — $1010,000, to be precise. First quarter expenditures were $200,000; second quarter, $290K; Q3, $280K; and Q4, $240K).
Let’s break down that Q1 2023 number.
- The Daschle Group, the only group that lobbies directly for the Chilean mining company (and not for its Twin Metals US subsidiary), reports $20,000. This is just a retainer: for this quarter, as in the first and fourth quarters of last year, they report no lobbying activity.
- Brownstein Hyatt continues to command the lion’s share of the Twin Metals lobbying dollars, and with good reason. Former Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt rejoined Brownstein Hyatt after the Trump administration came to its ignominious end; and in 2021 the firm poached Wilmer Hale’s Andrew Spielman, who during the Trump years helped shepherd the Twin Metals project through the agency Bernhardt led. Last year, Brownstein pulled in $490,000 for Twin Metals lobbying; $120,000 of that was billed in Q1 of 2022. In the first quarter of 2023, Brownstein Hyatt reports just a little less for its Twin Metals work: $110,000. The firm lobbied the Senate, the House, and the Department of Energy for “supporting development of mining a project in Minnesota” [sic].
- Wilmer Hale may no longer lead the Twin Metals lobbying efforts, but the firm still reports $50,000 for the first quarter of 2023. They lobbied the Senate and the House on “mining issues.”
Antofagasta’s three lobbying firms may have to take a slight haircut this year, if this first quarter sets the pattern; but things could pick up again, especially if Antofagasta can get a favorable judgment in federal court. Currently, the project faces some enormous administrative and legal hurdles, enough to trigger a $177.6M impairment in Antofagasta’s accounting. But the Group, as Antofagasta likes to refer to itself, appears to be taking the long view. Administrations come and go, priorities shift, rules change, and Antofagasta needs to keep its American friends close.