Jun 22, 2023 - Energy & Environment

The global stakes of a Minnesota mining plan

Illustration of a magnifying glass over northern Minnesota.

Illustration: Axios Visuals

Minnesota regulators are beginning to review a key nickel mining proposal that promises to help the U.S. develop domestic supplies of raw materials for climate tech.

Driving the news: Talon Metals yesterday formally filed paperwork that will launch state environmental analysis of its proposal to build an underground mine in northern Minnesota.

  • It already counts electric vehicle giant Tesla among its customers, if the project comes to fruition.

Why it matters: Talon sits atop a wealth of high-grade nickel that could, in theory, help the U.S. cut reliance on foreign supplies.

The big picture: U.S. and state regulators now face a test of whether they can advance something with enormous geopolitical stakes and — like many other U.S. mines — locally-driven concerns.

  • Talon's roughly 80-acre Tamarack project is on state and private lands. But may need federal permits because, according to company documents, it contains wetlands.
  • Through the permit processes, Talon is likely to face the kind of environmental and Indigenous-led concerns that have derailed U.S. mining projects like Twin Metals, which is north of Talon's project.
  • But Talon has worked hard to assuage discontented residents, including by locating a DOE-backed processing plant and a waste storage facility out of state in North Dakota.

What they're saying: “There is bipartisan consensus among elected leaders in the United States that security of supply for the inputs required for clean energy systems is a national priority,” Todd Malan, Talon's head of climate strategy, in a statement.

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