Key Members of Congress Support Overturning Obama MN Mining Ban

The effort to overturn the Obama administration’s last-minute ban on mining in northern Minnesota just reached a new level. The chairs of two key congressional subcommittees got a first hand look at the area on Monday, pledging to urge the Trump administration to take action to reverse the mining moratorium.Mining Sign

Rep. Rick Nolan served as tour guide in his home district, breaking ranks with many of his Democratic colleagues in working across the aisle to  supporting the mining industry in an area that supported Trump.

The Duluth News Tribune reports the delegation included some heavy hitters.

Nolan, D-Crosby, was joined by Republican Reps. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, Paul Gosar of Arizona and Bruce Westerman of Arkansas touring the United Taconite iron ore mine in Eveleth and the proposed Twin Metals copper mine site near Ely.

Gossar is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources while  Westerman serves both on that subcommittee and the Federal Lands Subcommittee. Both said they would work to overturn the 11th-hour move by the Obama administration that withdrew federal mineral leases from Twin Metals. Without the permits the project would likely be scuttled.

The bipartisan group also met with local elected officials, underscoring the importance of local control in developing natural resources.

Gosar said he was glad to come to northern Minnesota to “see firsthand the overreach of the federal government” in rescinding mining permits and installing a two year moratorium on mining across 235,000 acres of the Superior National Forest adjacent to the BWCAW.

“This might seem like a local issue but it’s really a national issue,” Westerman said, saying there would be a bipartisan effort to restore “local control” to mineral rich land across the country.

“This is neither a Republican or Democrat issue, it’s an American issue,” Emmer said.

But Nolan clearly has more in common on mining issues with Republicans like Emmer than his Democratic colleagues like Rep. Betty McCollum. The St. Paul liberal has led the charge to convince the Trump administration to keep Obama’s ban in place.

Nolan and Emmer said they met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke last month and are slated to meet with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in coming weeks. Both said they expect the Trump administration to eventually overturn the mining moratorium and give the leases back to Twin Metals.

The lawmakers said that change could come through administrative orders or through Congressional legislation.

Twin Metals and its predecessors had held the leases for years, paying a small fee for the exclusive right to explore for minerals under the land. The federal agencies decided this past winter to take them back. Moreover, the U.S. Forest Service, in collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management, called for a  two-year study of mining potential in the BWCAW watershed. The moratorium could be extended to 20 years.