Rep. Tom Emmer
Minnesota is an amazing state with an abundance of natural resources and one of the best-educated and -motivated workforces in the world. We Minnesotans not only work hard, we play hard. In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, we make the most of everything our state has to offer.
For many Minnesotans, mining has been a way of life since the early 1800s. Although the way we mine has changed dramatically over the years, mining is even more important today to the future of our state and our country. In fact, one of the largest precious-metals deposits in the world has been discovered in Minnesota. This is why it is imperative that we preserve and celebrate mining in our state, not eliminate its future. Unfortunately, this wasn’t always a shared priority with the Obama administration.
Hundreds of mining supporters attended a Tuesday rally in Virginia to condemn federal intervention that might prevent copper-nickel exploration near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA).
The rally was followed by a half-mile march to a U.S. Forest Service hearing that addressed a potential ban on mineral lease renewals near the BWCA. At the highly animated session, speakers said the proposed regulatory action was politically inspired during the final days of the Obama administration. Later at the public hearing, Ely Mayor Chuck Novak lamented, “My own congressman could not even get an appointment with the administration officials” who proposed the moratorium.
Approximately 234,000 acres would temporarily be placed off limits to mineral exploration if a potential moratorium advances. It would affect public land where Twin Metals Minnesota and its predecessor companies have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on exploration efforts. The firms previously held mineral leases in the area which, in the past, were routinely renewed.
The rally came a week after Iron Range mining supporters boycotted a similar hearing in St. Paul, complaining it was unusual to gather input in a part of the state far from where a proposal is at issue.
Northeastern Minnesota is a world mining center of excellence, with more than 130 years of experience in the field. We — workers, business owners and residents of the region — are ready and able to embrace a new era of advanced mining technology, backed by a commitment to responsible environmental practices in one of the most mineral-rich areas in the world.
Your staffs have other ideas, such as blocking any new mining projects in a vast swath of the Arrowhead Region and the good jobs that go with them. Your contrived process is undermining and displacing a well-established, legally mandated and fair review process that’s been in place for mining projects for decades, and which came about because mining opponents who want the Northland to be only a playground applied enough political pressure on a former administration to get their way.
Your most recent stalling tactic was to extend the public comment period for your proposed moratorium, or land withdrawal, on new mineral or land development on 235,000 federal acres in northeastern Minnesota. An added hearing today in St. Paul is part of the extension – and we won’t be attending.
The March 16 hearing in Duluth was designed to accommodate Duluth and Twin Cities audiences and it did. The familiar cast of self-styled “green” critics and anti-mining organizations turned out in force to voice the same scripted alarmist case they always do. Let’s get one fact straight – the withdrawal area is outside of the Boundary Waters and is an area designated for multiple uses, including mining.
No one should even pretend this is about gaining new information or insight. It’s about politics, theatrics and stuffing the comment box with sentiments opposed to mining in Minnesota and our region’s way of life.
How many hearings do we really need? Why must the people with the greatest stake, whose jobs and regional economic viability are at risk, have to keep turning out for these charades? When was the last time federal agencies held a hearing up North on projects in the Twin Cities, such as the Green Line or St. Croix River Crossing?
We’re fed up with jumping through federal hoops, burning gas, vacation days and family time to sit through your endless, taxpayer-funded meetings. It’s death by a thousand cuts. If you want to have a meaningful conversation about our region, our lands, waters or minerals, you’ll hear from us loud and clear at the last public hearing in Virginia, Minnesota, on July 25.
Enough is enough. No more delays. Return to a fair process. We’ll see you in Virginia.
- Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX)
- Fight For Mining Minnesota
- Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
- Hibbing Area chamber of Commerce
- International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49
- Jobs for Minnesotans
- Laborers District Council of Minnesota & North Dakota
- Laborers Local #1091
- Laborers Local #1097
- Laurentian Chamber of Commerce
- Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council
- Minnesota Pipe Trades Association
- North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters
- Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS)
- United Steelworkers District 11
- Up North Jobs Inc.
With that, Range leaders kicked off a press conference where they announced a boycott of a July 18 public hearing in St. Paul on the controversial, proposed 20-year mining ban on over 234,000 acres of northeastern Minnesota public land.
“I’m not going down to St. Paul,” said county commissioner Tom Rukavina. “I’m saying come up to Virginia, come up to our hearing and look us in the eye and tell us what we do for a living is no good.”
Rukavina, Metsa and several other local officials – including Babbitt Mayor Andrea Zupancich – spoke at Wednesday’s event where Range officials said they’d sit out the St. Paul hearing and instead wait for a similar event July 25 at Virginia.
The hearings come as federal officials consider withdrawing public land from mining activity, a move that would essentially torpedo proposed copper-nickel mining development on the Iron Range.
Range legislators and other elected officials, as well as business and labor leaders, are fighting back in a coordinated effort that included this week’s press event.
Duluth News Tribune
Supporters of copper-mining projects near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness say they will boycott a public hearing on the issue slated for July 18 in St. Paul.