Biden Announces Opposition to Alaskan Pebble Mine, What Does it Mean for Minnesota?

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has declared his opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska, which would mine copper, molybdenum, gold, and critical rare earths elements. Biden announced his administration would stop the mine, according to the Anchorage Daily News.  Biden’s announcement is bad news for Minnesotans who support copper-nickel mining in Northern Minnesota, because like the proposed Twin Metals Minnesota mine, the Obama Administration preemptively struck down the Pebble Mine without a fair, scientific review.

Biden claims that the Obama administration’s decision to preempt the Pebble Mine was based on science, but this could not possibly be true. Rather than conducting an actual scientific review of the specific aspects of the proposed Pebble Mine, the Obama Administration discarded standard procedure to stop the mine before a mine plan was even submitted. According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute:

“The coordination between the Trump administration EPA and Army Corps stands in stark contrast to that under the Obama administration, when the EPA abused its authority under the Clean Water Act to unilaterally block the project before the Army Corps had even begun its assessment. The agency did so by compiling its 2014 Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment that was stridently anti-mine but suffered from numerous flaws. Most significantly, it was completed before the mine developers had submitted a mine application and thus was completely speculative.”

“The Obama EPA ignored concerns raised by Army Corps that “at this time, the Corps has not received a permit application for this project and is therefore unable to evaluate the impacts of potential discharges associated with the Pebble Deposit,” and that it “has not yet begun the public interest review and evaluation process, and it would be premature to submit any information for the record at this time.” It is unheard of for a decision to be made on such a project without participation from the Army Corps of Engineers.”

The Obama-Biden administration used a similar inappropriate tactic in an attempt to snuff out the proposed Twin Metals Mine in Minnesota. The Wall Street Journal wrote:

“In 2014, Interior delayed the renewals [of the Twin Metals Minnesota mineral leases], calling for more “study.” In early 2016, the department’s solicitor issued a howler of a legal opinion, granting the government new authority to deny Twin Metals automatic lease renewals. It was an Obama extralegal classic: The opinion ignored precedent, existing rights and regular procedure. In a midnight kiss to green activists, the department officially blocked the leases on Dec. 15, 2016.

Even Amy Klobuchar criticized the Obama Administration’s actions in an email, according to the Wall Street Journal: 

Enter Ms. Klobuchar. Or, at least enter an email she wrote to then-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Dec. 16, 2016, the day after the leases were blocked. Government sources provided me this missive, in which a furious Ms. Klobuchar punctures the scandal narrative and skewers her own party for putting politics ahead of the law.

Ms. Klobuchar bluntly states that the decision not to renew the lease “just floored me. Trump will reverse this. When you guys leave and are out talking about a job message for rural America, I will be left with the mess and dealing with the actual jobs. But you guys sure got a good story in the New York Times.” She’s the one who has to run for re-election in a state that still values its mining industry.

She lectures Mr. Vilsack that this “should have been handled through the normal process. It wasn’t.” She notes that she’d asked written questions in July but got no response. She brutally observes that the failure to do this right is “most likely . . . why we have the trump administration to begin with.” She also snaps: “Who cares about answering some pesky questions from a woman senator from the Midwest when you guys and the White House and the activists have all the politics down, right?”

She notes that the company “had had the leases for years,” that the situation “will now end up in a lawsuit,” and that “trump will reverse the decision or a court will.” She adds: “I am not for or against this project but I just wanted a fair process based on science that told us the truth.”

Clearly, the Obama-Biden administration was happy to put politics over process when it comes to evaluating the environmental impacts of mining projects in the United States, and it appears candidate Biden will do the same regarding the Twin Metals project. According to a statement in MinnPost by Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s political director:

“Since it was the Obama-Biden administration who withdrew those mineral leases, initiated the environmental review, and proposed a ban on new mining in the watershed, we have no reason to expect that a Biden administration would change course,” said McCollum’s political director, Charlie Hammond.

This is very bad news for the Iron Range, where residents support environmentally responsible mining operations that will create hundreds of high-paying, family supporting jobs. Affluent urban liberals look down on Rangers for supporting mining, but they fail to see their own hypocrisy. Each of them probably owns a cellphone, a laptop, and maybe even an electric car. They use the same amount of the metals needed for these products (even more in the case of electric cars), but don’t want them mined in Minnesota.

Each mine is unique and specific circumstances. These circumstances must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and this is not possible if a specific mine plan is not investigated. The Trump administration is correct to judge these proposed mining projects based on the merits of their engineering analysis, and not to unscientifically dismiss them out-of-hand.