We can mine responsibly — restore our rights

We can mine responsibly — restore our rights
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In the waning days of the previous administration, over a quarter million acres of federal land in Minnesota was set to be restricted from future mineral exploration and development. In the area dubbed “the Iron Range” that has seen environmentally responsible mining and logging for more than a century, leases for exploration were revoked. 

This politically motivated, eleventh-hour action initiated a lengthy process that could limit access to important resources for decades to come. If allowed to continue, these overreaching actions could result in the loss of thousands of jobs — good paying jobs — and have a devastating impact on Minnesota’s state and local economies.

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This specific withdrawal threatens approximately 17,000 jobs and $2.5 billion in revenue for Minnesota’s economy. Additionally, left as is, these actions would be detrimental to our state’s education funding. When Minnesota was established in 1858, proceeds of some 2.9 million acres were set aside to benefit our state’s schools. However, these actions by the previous administration would also hinder profits that support the education of nearly 900,000 K-12 students throughout Minnesota.

 

Minnesota is not only one of the most beautiful states in the nation, it is also home to one of the world’s largest deposits of copper, nickel and other strategic resources. These are the minerals that give us technologies and devices required for modern life — indoor plumbing, electricity, cars, planes, smartphones, computers, wind turbines and solar panels. Without the mining of these precious metals, none of these items would exist and our daily lives would look much different.

Unfortunately, some would rather see these jobs and economic benefits outsourced to foreign countries with fewer environmental and worker protections and regulations. They refuse to accept that we can work towards a better way of life for our children and preserve our state’s scenic beauty at the same time. They would like you to believe that a haphazard, overly expansive ban on future development is the only option.

But, we are smarter than that — we have the tools, resources and the know-how to assess each specific proposal for its environmental impact. To agree to let the executive branch deny hundreds of thousands of acres of Northern Minnesota from potential exploration is to lose hope in the ingenuity and innovation Minnesotans have shown time and time again.

That is why Rep. Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerFranken resignation could upend Minnesota races Overnight Energy: EPA to keep biofuel mandate steady | Ex-coal exec Blankenship cuts first Senate ad | House passes bill to clean up contaminated sites House votes to overturn Obama mining ban in Minnesota MORE’s (R-Minn.) H.R. 3905, the Minnesota's Economic Rights in the Superior National Forest (MINER) Act, is so necessary.

The MINER Act ensures that Minnesotans will retain the control and the opportunity to show that we have the skills to responsibly develop and utilize our state’s abundant natural resources.

Nameless bureaucrats should not have the only say in this process, and Minnesota cannot afford to stop and start development based on whomever occupies the White House. The MINER Act requires congressional approval before a broad withdrawal of federal land in Minnesota could take effect. It also ensures the Boundary Waters are protected, while preserving the vigorous and time-tested environmental review process that analyzes each and every mining application.

Now, it is understandable that some will perpetuate misinformation and claim that these efforts will have a negative impact on the Boundary Waters. For those who have yet to enjoy a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota, it is one of the greatest national treasures in the United States. It is an area that all Minnesotans want to protect and remain special for generations to come.

We can and will protect the Boundary Waters without jeopardizing dozens of local economies across Minnesota. That is why Emmer’s legislation, includes a section explicitly prohibiting any development in the Boundary Waters, as well as its state and federal buffer zones.

Our common desire to leave this planet in as good or better a condition than we found it can co-exist with our pursuit of economic opportunity and advancement. Underground mining can take decades to plan and execute, and must be done in accordance with the appropriate environmental and permitting regulations — a process we have no intentions of trying to bypass. Even the Forest Service has stated that mining projects “cannot be meaningfully evaluated without knowledge of the specific timing and location of the projects and activities.”

The MINER Act simply allows the appropriate environmental review process to continue while preserving Minnesota’s mineral rights, protecting the wilderness and creating jobs. To ensure Minnesota continues to have a say in matters affecting its own land, we urge support for the MINER Act.

Steve Giorgi is the executive director of Range Association of Municipalities and Schools. Kyle Makarios is the political director of United Brotherhood of Carpenters. Nancy Norr is chairwoman for Jobs for Minnesotans.