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Tue Jan 26, 2021, 10:29 PM

Dueling mining measures float Twin Metals future in Congress

Congress will soon have dueling mining measures from Minnesota one aimed at keeping copper mining out of Superior National Forest near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and another aimed at ensuring it gets in.

The "Saving America's Mines Act" introduced Monday by U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber would require an act of Congress to halt mining on federal lands where it's currently allowed, and prevent administrations from making that call on their own. Stauber, a Republican from Hermantown, made it clear the act is about keeping Superior National Forest open for the Twin Metals copper-nickel mine that Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta wants to build near Ely, just outside the national wilderness. U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a St. Paul Democrat, is expected soon to reintroduce her proposed ban on copper mining in the Minnesota portion of the Rainy River Watershed draining into the Boundary Waters. That measure would halt Twin Metals.

Twin Metals is one of two copper-nickel mines foreign mining companies want to build in northern Minnesota. They would be the first non-iron, hard rock mine operations in the state, and the advance of the more environmentally risky type of mining has been bitterly debated for years on the Iron Range and off. Twin Metals has just started the long permitting process. The PolyMet project, a copper-nickel mine that Swiss-based Glencore wants to build farther south near Babbitt and Hoyt Lakes, is much further along. It's been delayed, however, by challenges of key permits.

In a statement Monday, Stauber noted that President Joe Biden was vice president under former President Barack Obama, whose administration decided to prohibit mining in the Superior National Forest as too risky. Stauber called that decision "politically motivated." The Obama-era decision was overturned by the Trump administration, a decision Stauber called simply a reversal.


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