Build Back Badder: Biden cancels leases for proposed Twin Metals mine

In 2020, American Experiment warned that a Biden administration would likely cancel the mineral leases for the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota. Yesterday, President Biden did exactly that, putting the project and the more than 750 jobs it would create in legal limbo for the foreseeable future.

To their credit, Twin Metals was scathing in their press release:

The federal government’s reversal of its position on the mineral leases that Twin Metals Minnesota and its predecessor companies have held for more than 50 years is disappointing, but not surprising given the series of actions the administration has taken to try and shut the door on copper-nickel mining in northeast Minnesota. We will challenge this attempt to stop our project and defend our valid existing mineral rights. We expect to prevail.

This is not about law; this is a political action intended to stop the Twin Metals project without conducting the environmental review prescribed in law. We have proposed a world-class underground copper, nickel, cobalt and platinum group metals mine that deserves to be evaluated through the established environmental review process. Our proposal, submitted more than two years ago to state and federal agencies, was the culmination of more than a decade of engineering, hydrogeological, environmental and engagement work that maximize environmental protection. We are confident that a full environmental review will show that the science behind this modern mine will prove that we can advance this project safely under the highest of standards.

American Experiment’s research has found that a robust, environmentally responsible copper, nickel, cobalt, and titanium mining industry in Minnesota could support up to 14,800 new jobs in our state, revitalizing communities throughout the Iron Range.

This decision doesn’t just affect the mining industry; it clouds the economic outlook for everyone in this region of the state, including family-owned businesses like Pep’s Bake Shop in Virginia, Minnesota, who support mining because they intuitively understand that mining supports them.

Biden’s decision to pull the mineral leases also repeats the same mistakes that Europe has made over the previous decade of outsourcing the production of critical products, including energy and metals.

Now that many nations on the European continent have shut down their coal and nuclear power plants and banned the use of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas production, they are completely at the mercy of Vladimir Putin for natural gas. Putin understands this, and he is exploiting his advantage with a growing threat of military adventurism in Ukraine.

When it comes to metals, China dominates the mining of rare earth metals and the processing of virtually every metal needed for wind turbines, solar panels, and batteries for electric cars, as you can see in the graph below.

Source: The International Energy Agency

Rather than sending jobs overseas and making the United States more vulnerable to geopolitical flexing from China, the Biden administration should have focused on promoting the domestic mining and refining of the essential metals we use every day in the U.S.

Allowing the process to play out for the Twin Metals mine would have been a good step in that direction.