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.
Bemidji, Minnesota (June 22, 2017) – Jobs for Minnesotans today joined representatives from business, labor and the community to voice their collective support for Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Project in advance of the final Minnesota Department of Commerce (DOC) public meeting for comments to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project. The organization also urged the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to approve the certificate of need and preferred route applications for the project.
The Line 3 pipeline is a key component of the safe energy transportation network used to deliver the crude oil needed by Minnesota’s refiners and used by residents. The proposed replacement project will restore capacity of the line and reduce the need for maintenance, preserving the highest possible standards in safety and efficiency, while providing Minnesotans with thousands of new job opportunities.
“Enbridge has been a good neighbor to the Bemidji community for more than 65 years,” said Jason George, Jobs for Minnesotans board member and legislative and special projects director with International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 49. “Six pipelines currently run through the Bemidji area – a community that has benefited from jobs during construction and maintenance of these pipelines. With oil moving underground, we also continue to maintain a tourism industry and beautiful outdoors that brings pride to everyone here.”
The Line 3 Replacement Project has the potential to create more 6,500 jobs for Minnesotans over a two-year period in construction, hospitality, supplies and manufacturing, according to a recent study by the University of Minnesota Duluth. The project could also generate long-term employment positions in safety, monitoring and maintenance of the pipeline.
A key priority for Enbridge is to ensure the safety of the residents and communities that will be affected by the project. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, pipelines are the safest and most efficient way to transport energy. The regulatory review for the Line 3 Replacement Project is comprehensive and robust, and has been taking place for more than two years.
“We call on the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to approve the certificate of need and preferred route applications for the Line 3 Replacement Project in a timely fashion,” said George.
George was joined in Bemidji by other representatives from business, labor and the community who echoed their support for moving forward expeditiously to permit the Line 3 Replacement Project. Speakers included:
- Jim Lucachick, Commissioner, Beltrami County & Owner, Lucachick Architecture, Inc.
- Bob Schoneberger, President, United Piping, Inc.
The public meeting in Bemidji marked the last of 22 statewide meetings organized by the DOC.
An image of speakers at the press conference is available for download here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/zchj70ip3acp8hi/Jobs%20for%20Minnesotans%20Line%203%20Bemidji%20Press%20Conf..jpg?dl=0 (From left to right: Bob Schoneberger, Jim Lucachick, Jason George)
About Jobs for Minnesotans
Jobs for Minnesotans, a coalition representing business, labor and communities, supports statewide opportunities for prosperity and middle-class jobs from sustainable natural resource development in Minnesota. The organization is committed to the principle that our state can preserve both job opportunities and the environment for future generations. Jobs for Minnesotans was co-founded in 2012 by the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council representing 55,000 workers and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce representing 2,300 companies and 500,000 employees. For more information, visit jobsforminnesotans.org, follow @JobsforMN on Twitter and find the coalition on Facebook.com/Jobs4MN.
Media Contact: Meagan Pick