House to hear McCollum’s Minnesota mining ban bill tomorrow in D.C.

Tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives will hold a hearing on a bill that would permanently ban mining for precious metals in more than 200,000 acres in Northeastern Minnesota. The bill was introduced by Congresswoman Betty McCollum, a Democrat who resides in St. Paul.

While the legislation would not affect the proposed PolyMet mine project, it would take much of Minnesota’s vast treasure of copper and nickel deposits off the table for development, effectively destroying the possibility of mining companies creating up to 4,600 high-paying mining jobs in the region, forever.

Last week, I attended a pro-mining event held by Congressman Pete Stauber (R) in Virginia, Minnesota, that featured state and local elected officials from both sides of the political aisle. Their support for mining was based on their fundamental belief that this mining would be conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, and that the jobs created by the industry would be a godsend to the communities who have seen empty storefronts, shrinking school enrollment, and young people leaving the area to take jobs elsewhere for far too long.

People who live in the Twin Cities, especially the posh liberal neighborhoods, don’t understand that when a mine shuts down on The Range, it sends shockwaves through the economy of entire towns.

It affects the companies that sell equipment to mining companies, and mechanics who fix mining equipment when it breaks. It affects local bakeries, because there is less money coming into the town with every load of metal that leaves The Range. It means the loss of tax base and a reduction in basic public services. It means fewer teachers for the students who remain.

Now, imagine having an enormous economic opportunity, right beneath your feet, to reverse the effects of a mine closure and being told that you should never have that opportunity by people who live nearly 200 miles away. Unfortunately, the people who live in the Metro appear clueless to the fact that mining is one of the crucial pillars of the economy in northern Minnesota. Mining is important to everyone up there, whether they work directly in the industry or not.

The Metro simply doesn’t get it, and they don’t seem to care that they don’t get it. This is why the bill to ban the economic possibilities of copper nickel mining in Minnesota was sponsored by Congresswoman McCollum, who does not represent The Range, and not Congressman Stauber who does. Additionally, the recent ouster of Senator Minority Leader Tom Bakke, of Cook, Minnesota in favor Susan Kent of Woodbury, suggests the priorities of liberal lawmakers in St. Paul continue to diverge from the interests of the people living on The Range.