WASHINGTON- U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (DFL-MN 8) reached out to the Trump administration last week to ask for the removal of environmental protections within his Congressional district.
The restrictions in question relate to copper mines in Northeastern Minnesota and came at the end of the Obama administration, which found that the area’s ecological attributes warranted special protection by the federal government. This special protection spread across 234,000 acres that surround the Boundary Waters.
While iron mining has been around for decades in Northern Minnesota, the type of mine which the company hopes to build, a sulfide ore-mine, has never been built in that part of Minnesota.
Environmental activists are concerned about the tendency of sulfide mines to leach toxic metals, and how this may affect local streams. By placing the restrictions, no company will be able to go through the usual review process in order to receive the rights to operate a mine in the area, a process which takes environmental and ecological concerns seriously within its determination.
The company hoping to initiate building of the mine, Twin Metals Minnesota, is a subsidiary of a Chilean mining company, which holds two expired mineral leases to the area. The leases were originally reviewed for renewal in 2012. However, this process was largely stalled following strong condemnation from Gov. Mark Dayton and the above mentioned environmental restrictions.
Following Obama’s placement of these restrictions, Twin Metals sent out a statement of disapproval, stating, “If allowed to stand, [these restrictions] will have a devastating impact on the future economy of the Iron Range and all of Minnesota, eliminating the promise of thousands of good-paying jobs and billions of dollars in investment in the region.” The statement went on to say, “this unprecedented decision is contrary to the overwhelming majority of local and regional citizens and communities who support mining and believe mining can be done responsibly in this region.”
Nolan certainly seems to agree with this sentiment, making a statement to Star Tribune in which he said, “As long as the world needs iron ore and precious metals for a whole wide range of purposes … we need to be open to both the exploration to see what we have and the consideration of projects once they’ve been proposed.”
Many on the left seem keen to criticize Nolan over his lack of support for the environmental justice movement. A local paper, the Ely Timberjay, recently posted an opinion piece which called out Nolan, stating, “This latest incident is just more evidence of a troubling development with our Eighth District congressman. On this issue, and others affecting the environment, Rep. Nolan has lost perspective and is risking a precious national resource in the process.”
Nolan was one of the legislators who helped pass the protections for the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness. He has stated numerous times that he does not support mining within these protected areas.