Biden’s Mining Stance: *Anonymous* Sources In Reuters Article Tell Us Nothing

The role of mining is looming large in the run-up to the Presidential election next week. This is especially true in Minnesota, which was the 4th largest mining economy in the country in 2019, producing more than $5 billion in the value of minerals produced, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Center of the American Experiment’s research has shown that developing Minnesota’s massive copper, nickel, platinum, palladium, cobalt, and titanium resources could add $5.9 billion to the state’s economy and create up to 14,850 new jobs in our state.

With so much on the line, it is no surprise mining has received so much attention this election cycle.

For example, last week, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published a story entitled “On Minnesota Copper Mining Issues, Trump Position is Clear While Biden is Mum.” The Star Tribune article correctly points out that President Trump has been an unapologetic champion of mining in Minnesota, and highlighted the fact that Democratic nominee Joe Biden has refused to comment on his position, despite several inquiries on this important topic.

While Biden has been silent on whether he supports more mining in Minnesota, I noted last Friday that a staffer for Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-St. Paul) has not. McCollum’s political director, Charlie Hammond, told MinnPost that McCollum’s team expects a Biden Administration would pick up where the Obama administration left off by blocking projects and attempting to impose a 20 year ban on copper-nickel mining in the Superior National Forest.

Another story published last week in Reuters further muddied the waters on Biden’s mining position. The article, entitled “Exclusive: Biden Campaign Tells Miners It Supports Domestic Production of EV Metals,” alleges the former Vice President is supportive of domestic mining, but relied exclusively on unverifiable, anonymous sources.

The Reuters article states:

(Reuters) – Joe Biden’s campaign has privately told U.S. miners it would support boosting domestic production of metals used to make electric vehicles, solar panels and other products crucial to his climate plan, according to three sources familiar with the matter, in a boon for the mining industry.

The Obama administration enacted rigorous environmental regulations that slowed U.S. mining sector growth during its time in office. Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president and is well-regarded in conservation circles, has been expected to continue in that vein.

The U.S. Democratic presidential candidate also supports bipartisan efforts to foster a domestic supply chain for lithium, copper, rare earths, nickel and other strategic materials that the United States imports from China and other countries, the sources said.

In a sign that miners are betting on a friendly reception from Biden, executives at Glencore Plc, which controls PolyMet Mining Corp, view its Minnesota copper mine project as a long-term investment and have no plans to scale back if Biden wins, a source familiar with the company’s thinking told Reuters.

The project had been considered one that could have been hurt in a Biden administration that mirrored Obama’s environmental stance.

PolyMet, Glencore and the Biden campaign declined to comment.

“A Biden administration would emphasize green energy, and in order to get more solar panels, you need more raw materials,” said one of the sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “These materials don’t come out of a test tube.”

Biden agrees with the broad intent of Trump’s orders to encourage domestic mining, but opposes Trump’s anti-China rhetoric and his attempts to streamline federal permitting, two of the sources said.

Biden declined this year to commit to opposing copper mining in Minnesota. Environmentalists said this stance seemed born from political calculation rather than a desire to skirt the issue.

PolyMet has secured federal permits already, though a court challenge could force Washington to reconsider that decision. Twin Metals is locked in a more-acrimonious debate over permitting for another project that opponents say would damage wetlands near Minnesota’s border with Ontario.

This article is interesting because it focuses so heavily on Minnesota.

In fact, our state is mentioned five times in the article and Arizona is only mentioned twice. Additionally, both major proposed copper-nickel mining projects, PolyMet and Twin Metals are mentioned. Unfortunately, this report gave us zero reliable information about what a Biden Presidency would mean for the future of these copper-nickel projects in our state.

For example, the article claims PolyMet does not plan to scale back it’s proposed mine if Biden is elected, but this isn’t news. In fact, anyone with half a brain could have told the reporter this because the company has invested a lot of time and money in the environmental review process. Scaling back the project at this point, after it has obtained it’s Permit to Mine from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, would mean walking away from the project with nothing to show for it.

What Minnesotans needed to know is whether Biden will harm PolyMet by returning to the Obama-era tactics of cancelling mineral leases and delaying the permitting process for new projects until companies pull the plug and walk away, but in this regard, the article taught us nothing. Neither PolyMet, Glencore, nor the Biden campaign were willing to say anything on the record.

If Biden is truly in favor of allowing Minnesota to develop it’s world-class copper and nickel resources, why does the article rely on anonymous sources and why did the Biden team decline to comment on the record? Wouldn’t he want to be clear about his support for the project? If Biden actually supports copper-nickel mining in Minnesota, why does the Biden campaign’s seven-page factsheet on the Iron Range mention iron mining and steel several times, but never once mentions copper or nickel?

While Biden has not said he opposes copper-nickel mining in Minnesota, he certainly has not said he supports it. Both the Star Tribune story and the Reuters story speculated that this is due to a political calculation. Apparently, Minnesotans need to elect Biden into office before they are allowed to know whether he will permit copper-nickel mining to move forward in our state.

All of this uncertainty about how Biden truly feels about mining is awful lot of funny business from a candidate who promised “No Malarkey!”