Minnesota representatives seek to block mining bans

U.S. Capitol building (Photo by Mark Wade via Wikipedia)

A bill introduced in Congress this week would prevent President Joe Biden from reenacting a Boundary Waters protection measure put in place while he was Vice President, and which was overturned during President Donald Trump’s administration.

The legislation prohibits the president from enacting a moratorium on mining on federal lands. Such a measure has previously been used to protect the Grand Canyon from uranium mining. In 2016, during the final weeks of President Obama’s second term, the administration enacted a moratorium on approximately 234,000 acres of National Forest lands that drain into the Boundary Waters wilderness.

Twin Metals Mining Map BWCA

Those lands include the site of Twin Metals’ proposed mine. The project would be located along the South Kawishiwi River, which ultimately flows into the Boundary Waters. The other major copper-nickel mining proposal in Minnesota, PolyMet’s Northmet project, would not be affected because it is in the Lake Superior basin. No copper mines have operated in the state, and the form of mining has significant pollution risks.

Four Minnesota members of the House of Representatives have signed on in support of the new legislation. The bill’s lead sponsor is Rep. Pete Stauber, a Republican who represents northeast Minnesota. The other three Republican members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation, Reps. Emmer, Fischbach, and Hagedorn, also signed on.

Rep. Pete Stauber

“If our nation is to truly move forward and prosper, the Obama-era attacks on mining must remain a thing of the past,” Stauber said. “America needs the copper, nickel, cobalt, platinum-group elements that exist on our lands for infrastructure, modern energy technology, national defense, and for applications in our everyday life like cell phones, refrigerators, and batteries. That’s why I am proud to introduce legislation to prevent this Administration, and future Administrations, from eliminating important mining jobs and stalling our economic engine.”

The measure is in direct opposition to Rep. Betty McCollum’s legislation that would enact a moratorium through Congress, rather than the president. Stauber is disadvantaged by McCollum’s party being in control at the Capitol. Stauber said his move is an attempt to remove political considerations from mining decisions.

Wilderness advocates responded that protections have been based in science and policy, while removing the Obama moratorium was not.

“The truth is no one injected more politics into the issue of Boundary Waters protection then Pete Stauber and former President Trump,” said Tom Landwehr, director of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. “At every turn Stauber and the Trump administration bent over backwards to kowtow to a foreign mining company owned by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s landlord. Pete Stauber’s staff even interfered in the process to guarantee a sweetheart deal for Antofagasta.” Last August, emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from Stauber’s office showed his aides pushing the Forest Service for better mineral lease terms for Twin Metals. The agency appeared to have ultimately complied with the representative’s request.

The text of the new bill is not yet available and has not been assigned to a committee.

Stauber also opposes the nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland to Interior Secretary. Haaland could be the first Native American member of the Cabinet in history. Stauber objects to her position on mining and previous sponsorship in the House for Rep. McCollum’s legislation to halt mining in the Boundary Waters watershed, among other reasons.

More information:

Get Quetico Superior Wilderness News straight to your inbox

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap