Stauber targets mine permitting

by Tom Coombe
U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber (R) has introduced legislation that would streamline permitting for mining projects, including those in northeastern Minnesota.
Earlier this week, Stauber introduced his Permitting for Mining Needs (PERMIT-MN) Act. According to a news release from Stauber’s office, the bill “creates certainty for the mining community, limits frivolous litigation, and requires agency coordination across the federal government.”
“We are blessed with vast mineral wealth in northern Minnesota and across America,” said Congressman Stauber. “Our current permitting process fails to deliver our domestic resources and is abused by keep-it-in-the-ground activists who oppose mining solely on ideological grounds.”
In his district, both the PolyMet copper-nickel mining project near Hoyt Lakes and the Twin Metals Minnesota project planned closed to Ely have been bogged down, both by permitting and legal hurdles.
Stauber aims to overcome those obstacles with his bill and added “There is no justification to allow decades of litigation and permitting to get a legitimate mining project started. Let’s pass my common sense legislation and get shovels in the ground while protecting our environment.”
Major components of the bill include:
•Setting time limits to federal environmental reviews to create certainty on permitting timelines;
• Limiting frivolous last second litigation;
•Authorizes memoranda of understating between project sponsors, states, and tribes at early stages and designates a lead agency to coordinate reviews to maximize efficiency.
The legislation comes as PolyMet faces continued challenges to permits issued by the state of Minnesota, and with the Twin Metals project in limbo after the Biden Administration pulled key mineral leases that were reinstated by the Trump Administration.
Twin Metals has taken legal action in a bid to regain those permits and reignite its project, which promises hundreds of new high-paying mining jobs in the Ely area.
Mining supporters say the minerals that would be mined in northern Minnesota are needed for everything from cell phones to batteries for electric vehicles to medical devices.
“It’s time to face facts; our daily lives are irrevocably linked to minerals,” said U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R), the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee and an original co-sponsor of Stauber’s legislation. “There is no way around it. Given this reality, it’s imperative we shore up our supply chains to ensure our global adversaries can’t establish a chokehold on our economy.”
Westerman added that he believes the United States needs “to radically overhaul our domestic permitting process, opening up access to mines across the country and showing the world how to produce these minerals in sustainable ways.”
The Permitting for Mining Needs Act is supported by the National Mining Association, the American Exploration and Mining Association, and the Uranium Producers of America.
Stauber nonetheless faces an uphill climb, at least in the current political climate, with both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate in Democratic control.
Meanwhile, federal legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-St. Paul) would ban mining on more than 200,000 acres of national forest land and also derail the Twin Metals project.