Twin Metals is Just a Smokescreen
“IT’S ABOUT MORE THAN JUST TWIN METALS”
In the heat of a stormy Minnesota summer, the US Forest Service scheduled two unprecedented “public comment” hearings to take testimony over land lease renewals requested by Twin Metals. These same leases have been renewed twice previously, both without and “public comment” hearings, both without any fanfare or public outcry. The Federal environmental guidelines do not even suggest that a “public comment” hearing is required or suggested for a lease renewal request. First the US Forest Service issued a public notice that indicated they had “serious concerns” over the issuance of these leases so near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Secondly, they initially scheduled one “public comment” hearing and they decided that Duluth was the best “central” location to hold the hearing, thus denying working families from the Iron Range a reasonable opportunity to participate in the hearing.
RAMS, along with Jobs for Minnesotans, decided that we could not sit back and allow this to happen without raising our strong objections. A public forum was held in Virginia and we were fortunate to have Congressman Nolan present, where we publicly requested a second hearing, and insisted that it be held somewhere on the Iron Range, where the land leases are for the potential mine project. Apparently our public display of outrage and the strong advocacy of our Federal delegation, including Senators Klobuchar and Franken, along with Congressman Nolan convinced the US Forest Service to once again change the rules and schedule a second hearing.
The hearings were well attended, but the one held in Ely was standing room only! People had to sign up for a random drawing from one box and were allowed 3 minutes to state their opinion. A true environmental review requires science and technology to be presented for consideration, in this process, opinion was all that was under consideration. Emotions ran high with both those for and against continued exploration (remember, this is not a mining permit, it is for exploration for a potential mine site operation). Overall it was a tedious process in a packed high school auditorium that was overheated by the 80 degree weather and the hundreds of concerned people in attendance.
Now that the “public comment” hearings are completed, the US Forest Service will review the many opinions they heard and make a decision on whether to renew the leases or not. If these leases are not renewed the project will have to close up shop after investing nearly $400 million dollars in the past several years and leave Minnesota for more viable locations for mining of precious minerals so desperately needed by every American today.
Why is this about more than Twin Metals? In 2015 Minnesota Congresswoman, Betty McCollum introduced H.R. 2072. This legislation in very simplified terms will prevent virtually any and all mining in the Rainy River Watershed Basin. This is an enormous swath of land that stretches from Roseau all the way to Lake Superior. It includes several active taconite mine operations. Here is a summary of the bill:
National Park and Wilderness Waters Protection Forever Act
Withdraws federal lands within the Rainy River Drainage Basin in Minnesota from all forms of: (1) entry, appropriation, or disposal under the public land laws; (2) location, entry, and patent under the mining laws; and (3) operation under the mineral leasing and mineral material laws.
Deems the approval of any lease or permit for activities relating to mining on federal lands in the Basin to be a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. Requires an environmental impact statement conducted for such an action to include consideration of any potential impacts to units of the National Park System (NPS) or land in the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) located in the Basin. Conditions the issuance or renewal of any such lease or permit on a requirement that the permittee or lessee seasonally monitor water quality on such lands throughout the Basin. Requires all mining activities to be suspended if any mining related contamination is detected in any NPS unit or NWPS land in the Basin until all contamination has been remediated.
Bars a federal agency from approving any mining related activities on federal lands in the Basin until the entity holding a lease or permit for that activity has submitted: (1) an acceptable contamination remediation plan, and (2) a full reclamation and performance bond sufficient to return the affected area to its original condition and treat any potential contamination for 50 years following the conclusion of any mining activities.
Exempts sand, gravel, and granite operations that exist on the date of enactment of this Act.
This weekend the Minnesota DFL party will be debating a resolution that can only be described as anti-mining. This is further evidence of how shrewd and deliberate the environmentalist convicts are. They have mapped out a strategy to take away our economic base in northeastern Minnesota so they can better protect their weekend playground. They have members who are willing to play the game of DFL party politics, work themselves into positions where they can be elected as delegates to the DFL convention and to introduce resolutions that would make our ancestors roll over in their graves. We have been taking minerals from the ground on the Range for over 130 years. We still have some of the most pristine and clear waters that can be found anywhere in the country. As a state we have some of the toughest environmental standards found in the country and that is still not good enough. Until they shut down every last mine operation, they will not be satisfied and they will not stop. They also have elected officials who will do their bidding even though they are not from the region, they do not represent the people of this region and were not elected to represent us, but they have the gall to introduce legislation “to protect us from ourselves”. Believe me when I say, this is much bigger than Twin Metals, this is about our economic future and our ability to use what nature has provided us in this region – raw materials, natural resources and a work ethic and the moral principles to harvest those assets in the safest way known in the industrial world, and at the same time to protect and preserve our own backyards.