Northern Minnesota is mining country. For generations, hardworking Rangers have mined the resources for which the community is named. The mining industry has and always will be a constant in northern Minnesota. During my time in office, I have led the fight to protect this strong tradition while supporting the prospect of precious metal mining projects.
Whether mined at the Vermillion, Mesabi, or Cuyuna deposits, the mining industry has built and sustained our communities. It provides jobs to thousands, generates billions of dollars in revenue to our communities and schools, and provides the resources necessary for national and economic security. The taconite industry, with its genesis almost solely in northern Minnesota, supports 11 million jobs nationwide and accounts for 16 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.
Taconite is continuing to prosper. Just this past year, Cleveland Cliffs invested nearly 100 million dollars in the Northshore Mining facility to produce up to 3.5 million tons of modern DR-grade pellets annually.
Northern Minnesota’s mining communities will further benefit from precious metal projects. We are blessed to have the Duluth Complex snaking through the ground in Minnesota’s Eighth; we can build on our region’s mining success by developing the copper, nickel, and platinum-group elements held within the deposit while meeting or exceeding all federal and state laws and regulations.
Unfortunately, there always will be opponents of commonsense economic activity. The PolyMet project continues to be needlessly held up in its 15th year because well-funded anti-mining groups sideline our state agencies. Their playbook is simple: when you don’t agree with the science, fundraise and litigate.
In the same vein, Congresswoman McCollum (D-St. Paul) is attempting to negate our state and federal agencies by introducing a mineral withdrawal targeting more than 234,000 acres of our Superior National Forest. When the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on her bill, the Congresswoman refused to answer any questions on her legislation and left the committee room before myself or any Member of the Committee could enter into constructive dialogue.
At the hearing, I read a quote from my predecessor, Congressman Oberstar, in his 1978 letter to President Carter regarding the BWCA. I found it rings true now more than ever: “I urge you not to trade off lifestyles, livelihoods, and legitimate desires of the people of northeastern Minnesota for equitable treatment in favor of the vague and ill-defined interests of other, perhaps more clamorous constituencies far removed from the BWCA.”
During this hearing and a subsequent forum on mining in northern Minnesota, I had the opportunity to have a constructive conversation with the International Union of Operating Engineers, Jobs for Minnesotans, and others on the high-wage jobs and benefits mining can bring to our communities. The testimony of our constituents at the pro-mining panel contrasts with the claims made by “Friends” supporting Rep. McCollum’s bill. These groups, including Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and the Natural Resources Defense Council support Congresswoman McCollum’s legislation because they believe that seasonal tourism jobs are the only answer.
What these opponents of mining also fail to recognize is that our mines will help end the widely known international issues of lax environmental and labor standards contributing to supply chain problems. Children in the Congo currently mine cobalt at gunpoint. We rely on China and Russia for much of our cobalt, nickel, and platinum. Ironically, these are the very minerals needed for the green future pushed by so many anti-mining activists and politicians. In their fevered push to end any mining before it starts in northern Minnesota, these activists are ignoring humanitarian abuses and environmental problems in faraway lands.
When representing this region and advocating for our mining communities, I stand on the shoulders of giants. I seek to build on the platform created by Congressmen like Oberstar, Nolan, and Cravaack, who knew the importance of our local mining workforce. Like they did before me, I will keep fighting those hypocritical clamorous constituencies far removed from our Superior National Forest and continue advocating for our future mining generations.
Congressman Pete Stauber represents Minnesota’s Eighth District, which includes the Iron Range.