The future of mining in northern Minnesota is going to continue to be a hot topic over the next two years as it continues to be a target of the The Biden administration, which in January, then the U.S. Department of the Interior announced it’s withdrawing 225,000 acres from future federal mineral leasing within the Superior National Forest outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for two decades.
But that is just one issue.
There are a lot more.
In a recent interview, U.S. Eighth District Congressman Pete Stauber, who has long been a mining supporting and now chairs the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources on the House Natural Resources Committee, talked about some of those issues with the Mesabi Tribune for an exclusive story in this edition of MINE.
The following are the questions he was sent and the answers he gave.
MT: What are some of the major issues facing the Minnesota mining industry heading into 2023 and which ones will you be most focused on?
Rep. Stauber: At the federal level, the biggest issues include permitting reform and stopping mineral withdrawals. Our permitting regulatory system is broken and it’s time to change that. It should not take 20 years and counting, like PolyMet, to permit a mine. Meanwhile, we need to stop the Biden Administration’s move to ban 225,000 acres of National Forest land from all mining, including taconite.
MT: Does the changing of the guard in the House, Republican control, have any effect the mining industry here? If yes, why and how?
Rep. Stauber: Yes. Our House Republican Commitment to America is clear. My colleagues and I want to responsibly mine our resources in America with American workers. And nowhere else in the country has the resources that we have in northern Minnesota.
MT: Will you be chairing any mining related committees now, if so which one(s) and explain the benefit to your district.
Rep. Stauber: I am honored to Chair the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources on the House Natural Resources Committee, of which I served as the Ranking Member last Congress. I stand ready and willing to lead in updating our broken permitting process, letting miners mine, and unleashing American mineral dominance. And we will hold the Biden administration accountable for their failures.
MT: Please talk about the Permitting for Mining Needs bill and how important it is to northern Minnesota Mining.
Rep. Stauber: The PERMIT-MN Act was the first bill I introduced this Congress because it answers the call for what our miners want and America’s manufacturing economy desperately needs: permitting reform. It ends frivolous litigation, streamlines permitting, and lets miners mine.
MT: How important is copper nickel mining to the state and country and what is your strategy in 2023 when it comes to this type of mining in the area and some of the delays/issues we’ve seen for years?
Rep. Stauber: Copper nickel mining is the most exciting economic opportunity our area has had in decades and when we have the will to make it happen, the region and our nation will have a renaissance not yet had in our lifetime by becoming self-reliant once again. We are blessed with unmatched natural resources. With a growing call for EVs, wind and solar power, and battery storage, we can supply those needs right here at home. PolyMet alone will bring economic prosperity—similar to what a Super Bowl does- every year for a minimum of 20 years to the Iron Range. And that’s just one project. The positive impact is exponential when you also include Teck, Twin Metals, Talon, Encampment, and more.
The delays and issues we’ve seen are the result of three things: a lack of will to stand up to radical anti-mining activists, frivolous lawsuits, and ideological opposition in the bureaucracy.
MT: What are your thoughts on President Joe Biden’s administration recent deal with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia to support the development of critical minerals in the two African countries and how does that affect northern Minnesota mining? Are you considering introducing anything to counter this deal?
Rep. Stauber: I think it’s immoral, disingenuous and insulting. The President chose child slave labor over union workers in Minnesota that have Project Labor Agreements. To sign this MOU in the name of climate change, when these children are in some of the worst environmental conditions on the planet is reprehensible. All options are on the table to hold this Administration accountable.
MT: You brought members of the Congressional Western Caucus to the Iron Range last February for an up-close look at our mining industry. Would you characterize that visit as a success and a positive for the area and if so, why? Do you have any plans to do anything similar this year?
Rep. Stauber: Yes, it absolutely was a success. Seeing our area and its opportunities firsthand and meeting with my constituents and stakeholders really helps other members understand all that our area is facing at the federal level, and now my colleagues are helping me champion our issues and are great allies of Northern Minnesota as a result.
We’re always exploring opportunities to share with my colleagues the vast mineral wealth we have in northern Minnesota.
MT: On that note, would consider a similar type of trip/visit where you invite some members of Congress who might be on the opposite side when it comes to mining (or at least on the fence) and give them an up close look? If so, why? If not, why?
Rep. Stauber: Absolutely. I have invited many Democrat Members to come and visit. We have had scheduling conflicts and everyone is busy. But I will keep asking and hope to bring some to the area soon.
MT: Anything you would like to add?
Rep. Stauber: Yes. I believe it is important that folks know that the Biden Administration is the most anti-US mining Administration we have ever had, and how devastating its policies are to our area and nation. The Obama Administration issued a Clean Water Act Permit for PolyMet, and the Biden Admin remanded it, thrusting PolyMet into the situation we see today. Biden claims to support union miners, but then pulled leases held since 1966 in the Superior National Forest. This Administration also issued a massive mining ban that includes taconite, and recently signed an MOU with the Democratic Republic of Congo which has thousands of child slaves sourcing the world’s cobalt, when we have 88 percent of America’s cobalt right here under our feet. I am here to hold this Administration accountable.
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