Biden slammed for turning his back on Minnesota miners

Stauber interprets these moves as a "political, partisan obstacle intended to ban mining in northern Minnesota."

The Little Caribou Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Twin Metals planned to build an underground mine near the popular wilderness desination.(Eugene Kim/Flickr)

Rep. Pete Stauber blasted President Joe Biden for administrative decisions that could ban mining in northeastern Minnesota for at least two decades — thereby breaking a promise he made as a candidate in 2020.

In a statement released Wednesday, the congressman accused Biden of “putting politics over science” after the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture announced a two-year pause on new copper-nickel mining leases within 225,378 acres of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

During this pause, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service will conduct a study on the “potential impacts of mining on the important natural and cultural resources of the Rainy River Watershed.”

Once the study is complete, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland will decide whether or not to exercise her authority to ban mining in the area for 20 years, according to a press release.

Stauber interprets these moves as a “political, partisan obstacle intended to ban mining in northern Minnesota.”

“Nearly a year ago, candidate Joe Biden pledged to support Minnesota’s miners in their mission to obtain good-paying mining jobs, bring economic prosperity to a region that desperately needs it, and secure America’s critical mineral supply chain. Joe Biden has officially failed to uphold this promise,” he said.

Stauber, who represents a district encompassing northeastern Minnesota and the Iron Range, is referring to an Oct. 2020 report that the Biden campaign “privately told U.S. miners it would support boosting domestic production of metals used to make electric vehicles, solar panels and other products crucial to his climate plan,” according to Reuters.

Former President Donald Trump had previously reversed his predecessor Barack Obama’s environmental regulations that slowed the industry’s economic growth. The report called Biden’s promise a “boon for the mining industry,” which came as somewhat of a surprise because it was thought he would follow his former boss’ line.

But now it appears he has broken the trust of Minnesota miners by reneging on his unexpected promise.

“Today’s announcement further proves that the Biden Administration and Democrats in Congress are incapable of doing what’s right for union members and working families across northeast Minnesota,” Stauber added in his statement. “Rather than promoting the dignity of work, they’re comfortable seeing Minnesota’s union members and skilled workers sidelined.”

Twin Metals Minnesota also weighed in Wednesday, saying in a statement it is “deeply disappointed” about the Biden administration’s actions. It’s unclear what impact the decision will have on Twin Metals’ leases for a proposed mine in the area, which are “currently in litigation,” the Department on Interior notes.

“We are working to determine the best path forward to continue advancing our proposed world-class underground copper, nickel, cobalt and platinum group metals mine. We are firmly dedicated to the communities of northeast Minnesota and to advancing a sustainable mining project that will bring much-needed economic growth to our region, in addition to the opportunity to responsibly develop the critical minerals needed for our global efforts in combating the climate crisis,” Twin Metals said in a statement.

A ban on mining would not just lead to ripple effects across the Iron Range, but the entire state of Minnesota as well. Local economies would take a hit, and so would community investment.

According to the Twin Metals website, the organization has “provided over $550,000 in financial support to a variety of community organizations,” including United Way, Ely Area Food Shelf, and Hunger Solutions Minnesota.

But others are concerned about Twin Metals’ Chinese connections. Twin Metals is controlled by Chilean mining company Antofagasta. China is the most prolific buyer of Chilean minerals, including copper. Mining operations like Antofagasta and its Twin Metals subsidiary exist largely to extract resources and send them to China, fueling the expansion of its military and civilian infrastructure. In fact, Twin Metals has already inked a deal to sell Minnesota’s copper to China.