Congressman Rick Nolan

Representing the 8th District of Minnesota
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Duluth News Tribune: Our View: Trump can undo order to change rules on mining

Apr 5, 2017
In The News

Mining hadn't even been proposed yet. There was still just mineral exploration in far Northeastern Minnesota, the drilling down into the Earth to see what was there, to see if there was enough to help satisfy our nation's hunger for the copper and other metals that power our everyday existence, our necessities like cell phones, cars and lights.

That was why the sudden yanking of federal mineral leases from Twin Metals in December — leases first issued in 1966 and then renewed as a matter of routine since then — seemed so premature and came off as an obvious 11th-hour overreach by a lame-duck Obama administration eager to appease an extreme-environmental base.

It's also why the administration of President Donald Trump now can heed and can grant immediately the call that came right away from U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, the resolution approved this week by the St. Louis County Board, and the voices of the reasonable-minded many to overturn President Barack Obama's order and to allow Twin Metals to resume the mineral exploration that has been safely and quietly happening in our corner of the state for decades.

The company can be allowed to again follow the rules and the processes long established in our laws to allow mining while ensuring it's done safely and without harm to the environment, workers or anyone else.

Yes, Obama's order included a two-year study of the impacts mining could have on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which is near where Twin Metals had been exploring mineral deposits. But what exactly would be studied? Again, no mining had been proposed. How can a company's actions be analyzed when those actions are unknown?

And when a project is pitched, laws and stringent regulations already are in place requiring rigorous environmental and other reviews.

As reasonable and responsible as the Obama order's two-year study may have sounded, was it anything more than an additional hurdle thrown up at the last minute by mining opponents? What other study or document will suddenly become essential? The order seemed an attempt to change the rules long after the process was begun.

Twin Metals was $400 million into that process and into what could be $3 billion of private investment in our state with the promise of nearly 1,000 badly needed, good-paying, family-supporting jobs.

Like any entity, Twin Metals deserved to be treated fairly and in accordance with the rules and laws. Obama's order usurped those rules and laws instead and was hardly fair treatment.

None of this is to suggest that those who stand opposed to a potential Twin Metals mine near Ely don't have legitimate concerns. They do. Precious metals mining has a less-than-exemplary record. And the Boundary Waters are a cherished resource and the basis of a thriving tourism industry. If mining can't be done in a way that doesn't pollute, it shouldn't be allowed.

But that's what the process properly has to be allowed to determine. And the process is already there, serving both those who are concerned and those eager for industry and new jobs.

Minnesota's Rep. Nolan long has demonstrated his understanding and respect for that process. With its vote this week, St. Louis County commissioners showed they get it, too. Now it's up to federal officials to concur.