Western Caucus Efforts Reinstate Two MN Leases that Were Politically Cancelled by the Obama Administration

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Washington, May 15, 2019 | Emilio Navarrete | comments
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Joe Balash and Members of the Western Caucus released statements following the reinstatement of two Twin Metals Minnesota LLC-held hardrock mineral leases located on the Superior National Forest in Northern Minnesota.
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For Immediate Release

Date: May 15, 2019

Contact: Emilio Navarrete

Emilio.Navarrete@mail.house.gov



Western Caucus Efforts Reinstate Two MN Leases that Were Politically Cancelled by the Obama Administration 


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Joe Balash and Members of the Western Caucus released statements following the reinstatement of two Twin Metals Minnesota LLC-held hardrock mineral leases located on the Superior National Forest in Northern Minnesota:

U.S. Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Joe Balash: "Mining on public lands balances conservation strategies and policies with the need to produce minerals that add value to the lives of all Americans by providing raw materials used in the manufacture of medical aids, automobiles, smart phones and computers, and household appliances. Under President Trump’s leadership and direction from the Secretary, this action may reduce the vulnerability to disruption of critical mineral supplies if it leads to the development and production of critical minerals in an environmentally responsible, regulatory-consistent, and economically feasible manner. Mining strategic metals in the United States is beneficial to national security, national and local economies, and job creation."

Rep. Pete Stauber (MN-08): "In northern Minnesota, mining is our past, our present, and our future. With 21st century technology, we can responsibly develop the resources needed for the modern world and unleash the economic engine of northeastern Minnesota. Unfortunately, misinformed policies of the past have not only prevented the responsible development of our resources but have even prohibited companies like Twin Metals from even submitting a proposed mining plan. I applaud Secretary Bernhardt and the Trump Administration for putting politics aside and rightfully giving our miners the opportunity to meet or exceed all environmental standards."

Chairman Paul Gosar (AZ-04): " Thanks to the Trump Administration, tens of thousands of hard-working Americans in Northern Minnesota, that were negatively impacted by the previous Administration's political anti-mining actions, are one step closer to employment and economic prosperity as a result of today's action by the Department of the Interior. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle like to talk about how local voices are being forgotten. Yet, under the previous administration, the voices of many Northern Minnesotans were not only forgotten, but were outright ignored and attacked. These include teachers, labor unions, miners and local citizens who depend on revenues generated by mining for their very survival. But the Western Caucus did not forget and neither did the Administration. Thanks to the work of President Trump, Secretary Bernhardt, Assistant Secretary Balash, Congressman Stauber and Congressman Emmer, Northern Minnesotans will have the opportunity to reclaim their livelihoods and get back to work."

House Natural Resources Republican Leader Rob Bishop (UT-01): "The actions taken under the Obama administration to unilaterally impair valid federal mineral leases and block responsible development in the Superior National Forest are finally in the past. This action is an appropriate course correction for the Department to realign policy with Congressional intent in mineral management and development. It's also another welcome signal from the Trump administration that the federal bureaucracy actually can promote responsible land stewardship while promoting jobs and economic growth."

Chief Infrastructure and Forestry Officer Bruce Westerman (AR-04): "On the last day of his administration, former President Obama enacted a politically-charged mineral withdrawal that met nationwide bipartisan criticism. This unilateral decision threatened stable, family-wage jobs in Northern Minnesota, locking up nearly 200,000 acres of public land. I applaud President Trump for not only reversing this political withdrawal, but also continuing to prioritize rural economies nationwide by today renewing the Twin Metals Mineral leases. This decision is the first step towards allowing a full environmental study of the project, and the first step towards the hundreds of jobs and economic development that this project will bring. This project will also provide a domestic supply of critical rare earth minerals necessary to support our booming tech industry, which currently relies on supplies from China and other foreign producers."

Rep. Tom Emmer (MN-06): "Following the Interior's announcement today, I am pleased that the Trump Administration acknowledges that we can responsibly develop our state’s resources - bringing jobs back to this region - while preserving the forests, lakes and streams that all Minnesotans hold dear. Our state and local economies deserve to prosper, and we can ensure that, while also protecting Minnesota’s beauty for future generations. When it comes to protecting the environment and developing our economic assets, nobody does it better than Minnesota."

Background:

Today, U.S. Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, Joe Balash, renewed two Twin Metals Minnesota LLC-held hardrock mineral leases located on the Superior National Forest in Northern Minnesota that were cancelled by the Obama Administration to appease extremists.

In the waning days of the Obama Administration, federal land management agencies took several actions that would decimate local economies, stifle job creation and cause significant harm to K-12 education in Northern Minnesota.

Specifically, the Obama Administration’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) inappropriately rejected Twin Metals Minnesota’s application to renew two hard rock mineral leases in Minnesota’s Superior National Forest – leases that were signed in 1966 and renewed without controversy in 1989 and 2004.

In conjunction with cancelling these leases, on January 19th, 2017, the day before President Trump was sworn in, the previous administration published a 234,328-acre federal mineral withdrawal application in the Federal Register, to restrict for a 20-year moratorium, lands within the Superior National Forest in Northern Minnesota.

This action immediately placed this vast area off limits to future mineral leasing, exploration and potential development for two years while a 20-year withdrawal was being considered. The total withdrawal application boundary spanned approximately 425,000 acres and included 95,000 acres of state school trust fund lands.

17,000 jobs, $3 billion for education, $1.5 billion in annual wages, $2.5 billion annually for our economy and a total of four billion tons of strategic-and-critical-mineral-containing ore were at risk if these political anti-mining actions by the Obama Administration were not over overturned.

The Western Caucus has played a key role in correcting these injustices. In June of 2017, Reps. Paul Gosar, Tom Emmer and Bruce Westerman toured several mining operations, held a roundtable and visited the proposed federal withdrawal area. The comments they heard on the ground from American families, businesses and individuals who want good-paying jobs and support mining projects in the area led to a Congressional effort to overturn the Obama Administration’s land grab.

On November 30, 2017, the House passed H.R. 3905, the "Minnesota's Economic Rights in the Superior National Forest Act" which was introduced by Rep. Tom Emmer (MN-06) and cosponsored by numerous members of the Western Caucus. It's primary purpose was to overturn the Obama Administration's withdrawal in the Superior National Forest and reinstate the two leases that were arbitrarily cancelled. 

On September 6, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, announced that it has canceled the application for the Superior National Forest Withdrawal. 

An awesome video produced by the people of Minnesota on these issues can be viewed HERE.
 
Previous Caucus releases can be found HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

Courtesy of the Department of the Interior
 
Consistent with Executive Order 13817, A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals, signed by President Trump on March 26, 2017 and Secretarial Order 3359, Critical Mineral Independence and Security, Interior has renewed these hard rock mineral leases for the purpose of developing “world-class” deposits of copper, nickel, and palladium minerals on the Superior National Forest. The Bureau is entrusted with managing these onshore federal mineral resources on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield, which includes facilitating their development while also requiring mitigation of environmental impacts. The BLM currently oversees 41 additional mineral applications in the Superior National Forest. These include existing prospecting permits, new prospecting permit applications, applications to extend prospecting permits, and three Preference Right Lease Applications. A list of these permits and applications can be found HERE.

Courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management  

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Diverse activities authorized on these lands generated $96 billion in sales of goods and services throughout the American economy in fiscal year 2017. These activities supported more than 468,000 jobs.


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