The House Natural Resources Committee took a significant step on Wednesday by advancing two measures aimed at challenging and reversing the Biden administration’s actions that have impeded new mineral development in Minnesota’s Superior National Forest. These bills were introduced by Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN) in response to the Interior Department’s decision to rescind two mineral leases for the Twin Metals mining project and impose a 20-year land withdrawal encompassing approximately 225,504 acres in the forest.
The first resolution seeks to express disapproval of the land withdrawal under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. If the Senate were to pass the same resolution, it would nullify the land withdrawal without requiring President Joe Biden’s signature.
The second measure intends to rescind the withdrawal through a different legislative approach while also reinstating the two mineral leases that were withdrawn by the Biden administration. The reinstatement of these leases is crucial for the developers of Twin Metals to proceed with their mining plans.
Both measures were passed without the support of the committee’s Democrats. Republicans have been critical of the Biden administration’s obstruction of domestic mining projects that could tap into the country’s reserves of essential minerals needed for electric vehicle batteries and other technologies central to the administration’s climate change agenda. Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) highlighted the necessity of domestic mineral production for achieving the administration’s renewable energy goals and expressed frustration with the administration’s opposition to safe mining opportunities in America.
The Twin Metals mining project aims to extract copper, nickel, cobalt, and platinum group metals from the Superior National Forest. The Biden administration’s opposition to the mine stems from concerns about protecting the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Critics of the mine remain skeptical about the ability to safeguard the Boundary Waters from the risks of acid mine drainage and contamination, even with mitigation plans in place. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), who opposed Stauber’s resolutions, emphasized the unique and pristine nature of certain areas in the country that should not be endangered by extractive industries or other industrial activities.
Rep. Stauber, leading the committee’s Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee, attempted to assuage concerns by emphasizing that the proposed mine would not be situated within the Boundary Waters and that modern technology and practices could effectively prevent contamination. He also underscored the potential economic benefits the mine would bring to the region, particularly within his district.