Leaders call for support of a predictable, fair, and thorough regulatory process for mining projects that will create thousands of jobs and help secure U.S. domestic supply chains to combat the climate crisis
St. Paul, Minn. (October 21, 2021) – Next week, Minnesota labor, business and community leaders will travel to Washington, D.C. to advocate for the future economic prosperity of northeast Minnesota. State Representative Dave Lislegard (DFL-06B) of Aurora, Minn. will be joined by Ida Rukavina, executive director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS); Brian Hanson, chair of Jobs for Minnesotans; and Jason George of International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 49.
The trip follows yesterday’s action by the Biden Administration to bar future mineral exploration, leases and development permits on approximately 225,000 acres of federally owned land in northeast Minnesota.
“Decision makers in D.C. need to hear from voices of those most affected by the future of mining in Minnesota – those who live and work here on the Iron Range,” said State Rep. Lislegard. “We have safely and responsibly mined in the region for more than 135 years, and we will continue to do so with non-ferrous projects. We now have the opportunity to make Minnesota a global leader in sourcing the minerals needed to combat the climate crisis.”
Northeast Minnesota is home to the world’s largest known undeveloped deposit of copper, nickel, cobalt and platinum group metals. The deposit contains approximately 95 percent of the known U.S. nickel reserves, 88 percent of U.S. cobalt reserves, 75 percent of U.S. platinum group metals supply and about a third of the U.S. copper supply. These are minerals needed for clean energy technologies like electric batteries, wind turbines, solar panels, etc.
“We live here and work here. Our future depends on minerals and mining and we have an obligation to make sure that minerals are mined the right way,” said Ida Rukavina of RAMS. “This decision by the Administration creates uncertainty for our mining companies, limiting job creation on the Iron Range and investment in our communities.”
The current Superior National Forest Plan, citing previous environmental studies and Congressional directive, includes mineral development as a “Desired Condition” within the Superior National Forest. The Forest Service has also stated that generic, or programmatic environmental reviews like the proposed mineral withdrawal study, are ineffective.
“We simply ask for mining projects to be treated fairly like any other industry doing business in this country and not be politicized,” said Brian Hanson of Jobs for Minnesotans. “Mining projects should be evaluated individually and be specific to their site, design and geology.”
Safely mining these metals here, domestically aligns with President Biden’s Build Back Better initiative, Infrastructure Plan, American Jobs plan and the executive order to better secure the supply chain of these critical minerals. It is paramount for the U.S. to have access to a secure, domestic source of these metals. Relying on foreign countries for critical minerals threatens U.S. economic security and our leadership in technology and innovation.
“As our nation shifts towards investment in wind, solar and electric vehicles, these minerals are required to make that transition and we are currently incredibly reliant on foreign sources,” said Jason George of the IUOE Local 49. “Continued dependency on foreign nations will only further exacerbate human rights and environmental justice issues. We can mine responsibly here while protecting workers and the environment.”
The demand for these minerals is increasing at an alarming rate. According to the World Bank, mining more than 3 billion tons of minerals and metals the world needs by 2050 is seen as the only path to limiting global warming by 2°C or less.
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 70,000 workers and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce representing 2,300 members and 500,000 employees.
About Range Association of Municipalities and Schools
Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) represents more than 78,000 residents and 57 public sector units of government, including 27 cities, 16 public school districts and 14 townships, in the 13,000 square mile Taconite Assistance Area (TAA) of northeast Minnesota. As an organization, RAMS has represented the interests of the Iron Range region for over 80 years.
About IUOE Local 49
IUOE Local 49 represents more than 14,000 members across Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota in many different facets of the construction industry. We represent heavy equipment operators/mechanics and stationary engineers that work in building, road, highway and bridge construction; housing development; river dredging and port work; oil and natural gas pipeline construction and maintenance; mining; logging; wind and solar construction/maintenance; coal, nuclear, natural gas power plants; drilling; and several other industries. Our members are the most highly skilled workers in all the industries that they work in. We are active, we are mobilized, and we stand together.