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County board gives initial approval to resolution supporting copper-nickel mining
There’s still one step to go, but the St. Louis County board has moved ahead with a resolution that opposes the removal of 240,000 acres of federal land from mineral exploration and potential development.
The board had tied at 3-3 in a previous effort by commissioner Tom Rukavina to put the board on record on the issue.
Keith Nelson was not present when that vote was taken.
This time it was Rukavina moving the resolution and Nelson seconding it at Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting.
The vote to approve the resolution was 4-3 with Pete Stauber and Mike Jugovich joining Rukavina and Nelson. Commissioners Frank Jewell, Patrick Boyle and Beth Olson, all from Duluth, voted no.
“After we listened to testimony, you could see it was going to pass 4-3,” said Rukavina.
“Joe Baltich from Ely testified for it…he and Fight For Mining Minnesota did a wonderful job before the meeting getting people to send emails in support of the resolution,” said Rukavina.
The final approval from the board is expected to come at Tuesday’s meeting to be held at the Canosia Town Hall.
Rukavina said he believes the resolution will pass on another 4-3 vote Tuesday.
The last-minute move by the Obama administration to lock up land in the Superior National Forest has riled up politicians from one end of the Range to the other.
“A retired attorney who got paid to work for environmental groups for many years and her husband were able to get in a door in Washington even Rep. Nolan couldn’t get in and twist somebody’s arm,” said Rukavina.
“There were no scientists that made this decision, this is nothing but emotional anti-mining activity that moved this, not any scientists.
“This is just another betrayal on the people up here. We had the 1964 and 1978 agreements on the BWCA and there was an area such as the corridor on the Echo Trail that was removed from mining. Now they want to remove more.
“Anybody who says this is only about federal rights and federal lands is wrong unless they develop mining by helicopter they don’t know what they’re talking about,” said Rukavina.
He said Cliffs’ Northshore Mine in Babbitt could also be impacted.
“Look where this is in relation to Babbitt and the taconite mine there. If Northshore asked for another permit to move farther to the northeast, is it going to be permitted because of this? You never know.
“I’ve heard the anti-mining people say they’re not against taconite mining. Well, the groups they represent sure do,” said Rukavina.
The resolution asks “that Senator Klobuchar and Senator Franken join Congressman Nolan and publicly state both their opposition to the withdrawal and formally request immediate reversal by the Trump administration.”
The United States Forest Service has proposed to withdraw 234,000 acres of federal lands and minerals for future exploration and development.