Emmer bill clears hurdle; MINER Act passes committee, now heads to U.S. House floor

IN ELY at Twin Metals Minnesota were Rep. Rick Nolan (left) and Rep. Tom Emmer earlier this year.

by Tom Coombe
Congress has waded into the contentious copper-nickel mining debate, with a U.S. House committee advancing a bill that would seemingly breathe new life into the Twin Metals Minnesota project near Ely.
Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer’s MINER Act cleared the House Natural Resources Committee and awaits action by the full House of Representatives.
Emmer, who visited Ely and the Twin Metals operation several months ago, has proposed legislation that would essentially reverse an 11th-hour Obama Administration edit that stopped Twin Metals in its tracks.
The bill allows for the renewal of Twin Metals’ exploratory leases, requires Congress to act on any proposal to withdraw federal land from mining or establish national monuments in Minnesota, and ends a moratorium on mining activity near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
“Today, we came one-step closer to undoing the Obama Administration’s politically motivated actions in northern Minnesota,” Emmer said in a statement released Thursday. “Passage of this legislation ensures Minnesotans have a say in sweeping bureaucratic decisions made in Washington. Environmentally responsible mining and exploration in Northern Minnesota will unleash our ability to tap into our abundance of natural resources, and provide for a better way of life for our children, just as those in Northern Minnesota have done for decades.”
Mining supporters quickly chimed in.
Jobs for Minnesotans, MiningMinnesota and the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools released a joint statement about the latest development, contending “this represents significant progress toward correcting injustices to Minnesota, and in particular the northeastern part of the state.”
Emmer, who represents portions of the Twin Cities suburbs as well as the St. Cloud area, claimed bipartisan support for his bill and co-sponsors include two other Minnesotans - Collin Peterson (D) and Jason Lewis (R).
Outspoken mining advocate and Eighth District U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (D), who joined Emmer on his visit to Ely in June and has called on the Trump Administration to reverse the Obama edict, is not listed as a sponsor.
Environmental groups contend that copper-nickel mining near the BWCAW would pollute area waterways and damage the region’s economy, but Emmer said he believes mining can be done safely while touting the economic benefits of projects that could result in hundreds of jobs.
“We can preserve our beautiful state without permanently destroying any future job creation or economic development,” said Emmer. “We can utilize the largest untapped copper-nickel deposit in the world for Americans, and in an environmentally sound way.”
Jobs for Minnesotans, MiningMinnesota and RAMS said that “swift passage of this bill into law is critical to protecting our economy and a way of life in the region.
“Our members are Minnesota residents who enjoy the hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for which the state is known but also need a way to make a living. This is a region that has mined responsibly for 130 years and with the opportunity to develop strategic metals projects will remain as a strong natural resource development based economy for generations to come.”
The bill, dubbed H.R. 3905 also includes language specifically protecting land within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
For now, no companion legislation exists in the U.S. Senate.