On Minnesota Copper Mining Issues, Biden is Mum, But Betty McCollum’s Staff Isn’t

The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently ran an article entitled “On Minnesota Copper Mining Issues, Trump Position is Clear While Biden is Mum.”

The article correctly points out that President Trump has been an unapologetic champion of mining in Minnesota. While the Biden campaign is refusing to respond to requests to discuss the matter or talk about his position on the subject, a staffer from the office of Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-St. Paul) wasn’t nearly as shy.

This staffer revealed to MinnPost that a Biden administration will likely obstruct Minnesota mining projects like the Obama Administration did.

First, a Little Background Information

President Trump’s main victory in promoting copper-nickel mining in Minnesota was restoring the mineral leases for the proposed Twin Metals Minnesota project that were wrongly cancelled in the final days of the Obama presidency. Emails obtained by the Wall Street Journal reveal that even Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar knew the cancelation of the leases was likely illegal, and likely to be overturned by the Trump Administration. According to the article:

“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.”

It’s clear from the email that Senator Klobuchar believes politics trumped the permitting process in the case of Twin Metals, and a statement from Congresswoman McCollum’s staffer to MinnPost suggests this will occur under a Biden administration.

McCollum Staff Isn’t Mum

A May 2020 article in MinnPost sought to enlighten Minnesotans on candidate Biden’s positions on a whole host of environmental issues, including the Twin Metals mine.

“U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum of St. Paul, who has been an avid opponent of copper-nickel mining near the BWCA, appeared confident a Biden presidency would mirror Obama’s.

“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.

Playing Politics with Other Permits

The MinnPost article also notes how Obama delayed pipelines:

“The Obama administration also rejected the Keystone XL pipeline and a segment of the Dakota Access pipeline, two projects that have raised controversies similar to Line 3. Biden, however, has not signed a pledge to stop Keystone, which was approved by the Trump administration. Trump has been an ardent ally of oil pipelines and Minnesota copper-nickel mining while in office.”

The Obama administration was a master of playing politics with the permitting process for energy and mining projects. Most often, this was done to drag out the process and drive up costs, with the ultimate goal of the delays to make projects economically unfeasible, causing companies to pull the plug on the project and walk away.

The Twin Metals mine plan is currently being evaluated by state and federal regulators. Considering the Obama-Biden administration had no qualms about improperly canceling the mineral leases for this project, and had a history of delaying projects that would develop our natural resources more generally, it would not be surprising if federal permits for PolyMet or Twin Metals were eternally tied up by an administration that McCollum’s political director believes will be a return to Obama-era policies.

Becky Rom Believes Biden Will Not Allow Mining

The Star Tribune article ends with quotes from Becky Rom, the anti-mining activist whose husband essentially described mining supporters as being rubes who just want to own four-wheelers and drink beer. The Strib article states:

“Environmental groups see equally strong signals a Biden administration would thwart the industry’s advance in Minnesota.”

Biden’s Clean Energy climate plan pledges “banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.” In August, he announced he is opposed expanding mining uranium around the Grand Canyon National Park, calling it a sacred “national treasure” and that uranium mining pollution threatens the health of people in the Navajo Nation.

He has also pledged to block the proposed Pebble Mine, a copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, where vast numbers of Pacific salmon spawn and rear.

Those moves have Becky Rom, Ely area resident and head of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, feeling optimistic.

“It tells me his values,” Rom said. “Biden cares about these really important public lands, these iconic places.”

“I’m personally convinced that at the end of the day the Biden Administration will do the right thing and protect the Boundary Waters.”

Potentially 14,850 New Jobs With Expanded Mining

Center of the American Experiment used the economic modeling software IMPLAN to assess the potential economic impact of developing Minnesota’s copper, nickel, cobalt, and titanium resources and determined that responsibly mining these metals could generate up to 14,850 new jobs in our state. Not only would these jobs provide high wages for Minnesota families, they would also make our country less dependent upon foreign sources of minerals. Mining in Minnesota would also be done in a way that is more environmentally responsible than mining in developing countries.

Mining in Minnesota would be the best for our economy, and best for the global environment.

The Biden campaign’s factsheet on the Iron Range mentions iron mining several times, but it never once mentions copper-nickel mining. Minnesotans know where the President stands on the issue.

With so much on the line, Minnesotans deserve to know whether a President Biden would allow copper-nickel mining to move forward, or whether he would attempt to delay projects to death.