Jan 26, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Biden bans mining in part of northern Minnesota

Illustration of a close up of the top of an alarm clock with the bell hammer replaced with a pick axe.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Biden administration effectively banned mining across a swath of land in northern Minnesota, putting a roadblock in front of the Twin Metals mining project for at least two decades.

Why it matters: House Republicans are eviscerating the move’s timing because it happened just after Biden struck a deal for minerals from Africa and suggested they’ll zero in on his efforts to support mining overseas.

What’s happening: The Interior Department thrilled environmentalists and indigenous communities by withdrawing roughly 225,000 acres near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from mining practices for 20 years.

  • Twin Metals sought to use this area for its proposed copper-nickel mine. The company, which sued the Biden administration for canceling its mineral leases, responded by saying in a statement that it is "committed to enforcing" its "rights."
  • "With an eye toward protecting this special place for future generations, I have made this decision using the best-available science and extensive public input,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a news release.

What they’re saying: Rep. Pete Stauber — the Republican who represents where Twin Metals would be built — responded by aiming fire at a mineral supply deal Biden inked in December with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia.

  • "America needs to develop our vast mineral wealth, right here at home, with high-wage, union protected jobs instead of continuing to send American taxpayer dollars to countries like the Congo that use child slave labor," Stauber said in a statement.

The bottom line: Northern Minnesota is especially wet and rich in biodiversity, making it a difficult place to mine, but a ban right now will unquestionably have political costs.

  • Republicans will say Biden is halting U.S. mining jobs while supporting miners in other countries.
  • This arrives just as House Republicans plot to throw bombs at Biden’s efforts to finance mines overseas with a State Department-led initiative. Read Jael’s coverage of that program here.
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