House bill could aid Twin Metals

Emmer proposing to reinstate mineral exploration leases

MINNESOTA Reps. Rick Nolan and Tom Emmer.

by Tom Coombe -

Congressional action could breathe new life into the Twin Metals Minnesota copper-nickel mining project.
A Republican Congressman who visited Ely last month, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, is crafting a bill that would reinstate the exploration leases previously held by Twin Metals.
It’s not clear when Emmer will introduce the legislation, which did not have a bill number as of earlier in the week and has been dubbed a “Discussion Draft.”
“Today’s hearing was to bring forth a discussion on the potential to revitalize communities in northern Minnesota by recognizing the rights of Minnesotans to exercise their mineral claims if any proposed mining projects can satisfy all of our stringent environmental requirements,” said Emmer. “We have a real opportunity to reverse the politically motivated and short-sighted actions the Obama Administration enacted on their way out the door and bring good-paying jobs and revenue to a region that greatly needs it. Like all Minnesotans, I believe in preserving and protecting our natural resources and I have no doubt that we can find a way to preserve Minnesota’s pristine landscape without permanently destroying any future job creation or economic development in Minnesota. I am pleased we have taken action today to get us one step closer to allowing the research and exploration process to proceed, while protecting the potential future economic opportunities in the great state of Minnesota.”
The discussion draft before the House Natural Resources Committee aims to restrict broad mineral withdrawals unless they are approved by an Act of Congress.
It would also renew certain mineral leases with preferential rights of renewal, consistent with current law, and provide that future leases in the area remain valid for 20 years, with 10-year renewal periods.
Additionally, this proposal includes language that states, “Nothing in this section may be construed as permitting the prospecting for development and utilization of mineral resources within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) or Mine Protection Area.”
Emmer’s proposal has already caught the attention of activists working to oppose copper-nickel mining in Northeastern Minnesota.
The Minnesota Environmental Action Network sent out an action alert Tuesday, urging members to call other representatives of the state’s Congressional delegation - including U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) and U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D) - to oppose the measure.
According to the action alert, Emmer’s legislation would also prohibit federal agencies from withdrawing mineral leases unless approved by Congress, and exempt Minnesota from presidential authority to establish national monuments.
The action comes on the heels of a June trip to Ely when Emmer, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (D) and U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) and Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas) met with Twin Metals officials and visited the company’s offices and drill sites.
Shortly after the visit, all four publicly called for the federal government to rescind a proposed 20-year mining ban on over 234,000 acres of federal land.
At the time, Nolan also hinted that Congressional action may follow.
In a joint statement, Gosar blasted the Obama Administration for a late-2016 edict that rejected the renewal of mineral leases held by Twin Metals and set the stage for the possible 20-year ban. He called for the Trump Administration to reverse course.
Emmer joined Nolan last week in a meeting with Sonny Perdue, President Trump’s appointee as Secretary of Agriculture.
Emmer said then “It’s time to get government out of the way so we can find ways to bring good paying jobs and revenue to Minnesota in the safest and most environmentally friendly manner possible.”
Opponents of the mining projects cite their proximity to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the potential for pollution that they say would destroy the region’s tourism economy.