Biden blocked plans for a major copper, nickel, and cobalt mine in Minnesota that could have helped supply minerals for “net-zero” plans.
Biden Admin Bans New Mineral Development
Biden withdrew some 225,000 acres of national forest land in northern Minnesota from mineral leasing, protecting a swath of the watershed that adjoins the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
The decision follows a 16-month review on whether the minerals lying under Superior National Forest should be open to extraction. The Department of Interior concluded the land should be protected for 20 years, the maximum possible, without congressional approval.
“Protecting a place like Boundary Waters is key to supporting the health of the watershed and its surrounding wildlife, upholding our Tribal trust and treaty responsibilities, and boosting the local recreation economy,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement Thursday.
Not Everyone is Happy About the Ban
The order, which Interior Secretary Deb Haaland signed Thursday morning, delivers a potentially fatal blow to Chilean mining giant Antofagasta’s plans for a $1.7 billion underground copper-nickel mine on the doorstep of the 1.09 million-acre Boundary Waters, one of the most visited wilderness areas in the country.
“If Democrats were serious about developing renewable energy sources and breaking China’s stranglehold on the global market, they would be flinging open the doors to responsible mineral development here in the U.S.,” Chairman Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., said in a statement.
“We cannot have a future of renewable energy without minerals, period — not to mention their necessity to our defense systems, satellites, cellphones, and virtually every other advanced technology. While Democrats play political ping pong with American industries, China and Russia are laughing straight to the bank.”
Plans for Mining Haulted
There are no active mineral leases on the Minnesota land that was withdrawn from mining, but the long-planned Twin Metals mine was slated for the area, near Ely.
Twin Metals, a subsidiary of Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, lost its mineral leases when the Biden administration canceled them at the beginning of 2022. The company sued the federal government later in the year to have them restored.
The suit is pending in federal court.
Kathy Graul, a spokeswoman for Twin Metals, wrote in an email that the company was “deeply disappointed and stunned” by the new moratorium.
“This region sits on top of one of the world’s largest deposits of critical minerals that are vital in meeting our nation’s goals to transition to a clean energy future, to create American jobs, to strengthen our national security and to bolster domestic supply chains,” Graul wrote. “We believe our project plays a critical role in addressing all of these priorities, and we remain committed to enforcing Twin Metals’ rights.”
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