Politicians love the middle ground. And why not? Nearly every Washington consultant tells them they should be be all things to all people. Sometimes, however, an issue comes along that demands leadership.
Mining on the Iron Range turns out to be one of those issues and, as hard as career politicians try, there’s no escaping the fact it’s a time for choosing.
No nation should deny to its citizens access to their own resources. And that principle has been the governing philosophy for the Iron Range from as far back as when the Superior National Forest was established in 1909 to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act in 1978.
But in a stark about face, a lame-duck Obama administration canceled renewal of federal mineral leases critical to the development of copper-nickel mining. Subsequent lawsuits by wealthy environmental groups have blocked necessary land swaps putting a halt to economic development on the Range.
That’s why as a Congressman I was proud to co-sponsor the Miner Act reversing this unwarranted canceling of mineral leases under the previous administration. Contrary to the fear-mongering from urban elitists, nothing in the bill permitted “the prospecting for development and utilization of mineral resources within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or Mine Protection Area.”
Nor are any mine operators proposing that.
Yet even after hundreds of millions of dollars spent trying to get approval, Poly Met Mining and Twin Metals continue to face one legal and regulatory obstacle after another. And the forgone costs to families is dear. Responsible mining for our copper, nickel, platinum, cobalt and titanium deposits—some of the largest in the world—have been estimated to add $5.9 billion to Minnesota’s economy along with as many as 15,000 jobs, direct and indirect. This is especially important given the state has lost almost 25% of its mining and logging jobs since 2000.
Just as taconite once saved the range, so could copper-nickel. In fact, preliminary drilling by Poly Met now shows more minerals than previously thought—metals necessary for wiring, pipes, computers, cell phones and lithium ion batteries that power, ironically enough, electric vehicles.
But as of now, the United States still imports more than 90% of its titanium consumption.
It seems the only thing opponents have left is ad hominem attack, such as when the husband of shrill anti-mining activist Becky Rom was quoted in the NYTimes Magazine (naturally) blaming miners waiting for “somebody to just give them a job so they can all drink beer with their buddies and go four-wheeling and snowmobiling with their buddies, not have to think about anything except punching a clock.”
Rom herself had earlier pledged to stop copper-nickel mining “one funeral at a time.”
Even if you believe in the bizarre theory that mining hasn’t moved beyond the practices of the 19th century or that a new, safer method of ‘dry-stacking’ tailings is just a talking point, any mining project granted a lease is still subject to Interior Department study and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Moreover, the Minnesota DNR has announced their own independent review contingent on Twin Metals filing a mine plan.
Make no mistake, mining opponents are out to kill jobs on the Range. And they’ve got friends in high places. Just before she arrived in Minnesota for a campaign stop earlier this year, Elizabeth Warren ‘blasted’ mining along with key energy pipeline proposals, such as the Enbridge Line 3 upgrade. She also opposes nuclear power leaving no doubt that the ‘resistance’ Democrats energy policy is simply NO energy.
Voters on the Iron Range are realizing this is no longer your mother or father’s DFL Party. My opponent, Sen. Tina Smith, has been demanding the Forest Service block and delay the Twin Metals project through the Interior appropriations process. But she is all in on impeaching a President who’s trying to help Iron Range families.
Indeed, not one prominent statewide Democrat has pushed back against Warren and stood up for mining and families on the Range.
Jason Lewis served in the 115th Congress and is a Republican candidate to represent Minnesota in the US Senate.