MINER Act introduced

Emmer’s U.S. House bill would strip Forest Service of authority to enact mining ban, and allow renewal of leases

by Tom Coombe -

Legislation proposed by a Minnesota Congressman would make it much more difficult to exclude federal land from mining activity and perhaps provide a boost to proposed new mining projects in northeastern Minnesota.
Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer introduced the MINER (Minnesota’s Economic Rights) Act.
The bill, cosponsored by two other Minnesotans in the U.S. House, requires Congressional approval for any federal proposal to withdraw land from mining, or establishment of national monuments in Minnesota. That power now rests with the U.S. Forest Service.
The legislation would also allow the renewal of mineral leases in the area and would ensure that future leases in the area remain valid and renewed, consistent with current law.
It marks the latest in a series of efforts in Congress that would seemingly breathe new life into the Twin Metals Minnesota project near Ely, and counters proposals that could prohibit mining on federal land in the area.
“I know that we can responsibly mine and bring jobs back to this region without destroying the forests, lakes and streams that all Minnesotans hold dear,” Emmer said in a news release announcing the legislation. “That is why I am proud to introduce the MINER Act, which will allow mining as long as it meets strict environmental requirements, so that we can advance our state and local economies while protecting Minnesota’s beauty for future generations.”
The bill, dubbed H.R. 3905 also includes language specifically protecting land within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Emmer, who represents portions of the Twin Cities suburbs as well as the St. Cloud area, visited Ely in June and was flanked by U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (D), and high-ranking Republican House members from Arizona and Arkansas.
At that time, they met with Twin Metals officials and visited the company’s offices and drill sites.
Shortly after the visit, all four publicly called for the federal government to rescind a proposed 20-year mining ban on over 234,000 acres of federal land.
Emmer was also joined by Nolan in sponsoring a House amendment that would defund the process that could lead to the mining ban.
Nolan is not listed as a sponsor of the MINER Act, although Minnesotans Collin Peterson (D) and Jason Lewis (R) are co-sponsors.
The action seeks to reverse edicts made by the Obama Administration in late-2016, which effectively scuttled the Twin Metals project.
“In their final hours, the Obama Administration enacted a series of harmful and reckless policies, which have hindered our ability to utilize our state’s abundance of natural resources and bring jobs to a part of our state that badly needs them,” said Emmer. “
Opponents of the mining projects cite their proximity to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the potential for pollution that they say would destroy the region’s tourism economy.