Former U.S. interior secretary Zinke joins mine exploration firm's board

By Valerie Volcovici
FILE PHOTO: US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke arrives at the US Capitol prior to the service for former President George H. W. Bush in Washington, DC, USA, 03 December 2018. Shawn Thew/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

By Valerie Volcovici

(Reuters) - Former U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who stepped down in December amid ethics investigations, has joined the board of junior mining exploration company U.S. Gold Corp, the company said on Tuesday.

Zinke, who ran the Interior Department, which oversees America’s vast public lands, aggressively pursued President Donald Trump’s agenda to promote oil drilling and coal mining by expanding federal leasing, cutting royalty rates, and easing land protections despite environmental protests.

"Zinke has a lot of credibility in the mining industry. We think his credibility and gravitas will give us visibility, which we need to advance the company and benefit our shareholders," U.S. Gold Corp CEO Edward Karr told Reuters.

The company has a gold exploration project on Wyoming state land at the Copper King deposit and is going through state environmental reviews and regulations. It also has the Keystone project, which has 650 mining claims on a major gold trend on federal land managed by Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Nevada.

Karr said the company wants to prove that there is a world class deposit there to attract interest from mining company Barrick Gold, which owns property to the north of the Keystone project.

"Where Zinke could provide value is being on the ground and interacting with BLM's Nevada office," he said.

In a statement, Zinke said his work at Interior "can add tremendous value to the company."

"I am excited to work closely with management and the Board to help make mining great again in America," he said.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Susan Thomas and Alistair Bell)