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Guest Editorial: Elected leaders need to support responsible mining

by Rep. Roger Skraba District 03A

For generations, the Iron Range has produced critical materials that America and the world have needed to thrive and prosper. The iron ore beneath our feet helped build the skyscrapers of New York and Chicago.

It produced the tanks and ammunition America needed to win wars and save the world from fascism and communism. As the modern world continues to transition to a greener economy, the Iron Range once again needs to be a leader in moving us forward.

That’s why it is so important for elected leaders at every level of government to support responsible mining in the Northland.

During my first term at the state legislature in St. Paul, I worked hard with folks from all political backgrounds to advocate for communities on the Iron Range. This includes co-authoring legislation to extend unemployment benefits for miners laid off by Northshore last year. The bill helped hundreds of miners in the area that faced significant financial hardship through no fault of their own.

It was the right thing to do for these folks and their families and I am encouraged that we could get this done during the first month of last year’s legislative session.

I have co-authored legislation to streamline and bring transparency to the environmental review process for mining projects in Minnesota. This would require the DNR, MPCA, and other entities to use the same rigorous permitting standards, but directs them to do so in an expedited manner with full transparency. Another bill would declare Minnesota to be a “Mining Friendly State”. This policy creates a mission statement for our state to support and develop the mining industry.

In addition to the local and state level, we must continue to support mining at the federal level as well. Congressman Pete Stauber has been a strong advocate for the Iron Range and mining during his time in D.C. That’s why I recently sent a letter to Congressman Stauber and the House Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee to undo the Biden Administration’s decision to cancel two federal mineral leases and to support legislation that rescinds a public land order that blocks mining operations across 225,504 acres of land in Northeast Minnesota for the next 20 years.

The copper, nickel, cobalt, lithium, and many other critical minerals needed to produce modern technologies are right here in Minnesota. There is no reason for the Biden Administration to tie one hand behind America’s back and force the country to rely on hostile foreign nations for these materials when we can produce them in our backyard.

Without federal action, the communities I represent in the state legislature will lose out on billions in private investments, thousands of good-paying union jobs, and billions in tax revenues that support our schools and America will be left vulnerable to disruptions in global supply chains.

The Iron Range has been safely mining for more than 130 years—it is part of our past, part of our present, and needs to be a part of our future. Modern techniques and technology mean that mining can happen in Minnesota that meets and, in many cases, exceed the high environmental standards we have here. Let’s work together to build a strong and prosperous Northland where our communities are thriving for generations to come. To do that, mining must be a critical part of the equation.

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