On the Iron Range, we’ve been mining for more than 130 years. Our former mine pits supply our drinking water. We believe Gov. Tim Walz and our state agencies should allow the environmental process to go forward for Twin Metals’ proposed copper nickel mine in northern Minnesota. We have rules under the laws and should respect them.
Mining opponents had sought — and initially earned — a generic, two-year environmental impact study designed to support a proposed 20-year ban on all mining in 235,000 acres of Superior National Forest. The study area is fully outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and its buffer zone, and covers land long designated for multiple uses, including mining.
The two-year study was unnecessary, as they well knew, because any proposed mine would already be subject to an extremely rigorous, multiyear environmental review and permitting process required under federal and state laws. The process is based on well-defined plans submitted by mine owners, not on abstract notions of theoretical impact from “mining.” It provides multiple opportunities for the public to weigh in and be heard, and it takes many years to complete. Simply put, the regulatory process to determine whether a new mine can earn operating permits is thorough, science-based and specific.
Opponents of mining know the clean, green economy they favor will require vast amounts of steel, copper, nickel and other materials in the ground, but they’re willing to export our jobs and their conscience to get them. To them, it’s acceptable to obtain these metals from countries that, to put it mildly, follow looser standards for worker safety and environmental protection than the U.S. government and the state of Minnesota.
If we in Minnesota truly care about the environment, we should want minerals mined here — what some have called “fair trade copper” that includes the cost of strong regulation.
Calls from the opposition — and from the Star Tribune Editorial Board — for Gov. Tim Walz to delay the regulatory review pending release of an unnecessary study (“It’s up to Gov. Walz to end mine secrecy,” Aug. 25) come at a time when the winds of recession are blowing and creating even greater uncertainty for families who have been struggling since the last one. I applaud the governor for his “One Minnesota” approach to governing, and genuinely appreciate and support his desire to see everyone in this state have an opportunity to succeed and thrive.
Unfortunately, within the standards of the Editorial Board, there isn’t a chance of this vision being realized.
The board should share our trust in the legal process established under federal and state laws, even though it might not agree with the outcome. Instead, the board and other mining opponents are seeking to arbitrarily delay and perhaps even stop the process altogether.
Those of us who live on the Iron Range not only support this rigorous regulatory process, we are engaged from start to finish and will be here to hold companies accountable for their environmental performance. We trust the process, based on sound science, not histrionics or emotion. As a legislator representing an Iron Range district, I assure you that if the environmental review fails to show that a mine can meet or exceed the highest environmental standards, I will oppose their permit.
The Iron Range knows mining. Our renewable energy and high-tech future depends on the materials that come from the range. And our communities deserve the opportunity to succeed. We have incredibly thorough environmental permitting processes and strong environmental protections in place. Instead of further delays, let’s follow the laws and processes we have.
Dave Lislegard, DFL-Aurora, is a member of the Minnesota House.