U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Hermantown, introduced a bill Monday that would prevent President Joe Biden, or any future president, from banning mining on federal land where it's already allowed.
The move comes as mining supporters fear — and environmental groups hope — that the Biden administration will reinstate moves made in the final days of the Obama administration that rescinded the leases of Twin Metals, a proposed underground copper-nickel mine in the same watershed as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and prompted study on a proposed 20-year ban on mining activity on 234,000 acres of the Superior National Forest outside the BWCAW.
Officials at the time said mining in the Rainy River Watershed presented too great a risk of polluting the BWCAW.
Those restrictions were then reversed by the Trump administration, paving the way for Twin Metals to submit its mine plan to regulators and begin the yearslong regulatory process in December 2019.
“If our nation is to truly move forward and prosper, the Obama-era attacks on mining must remain a thing of the past. … That’s why I am proud to introduce legislation to prevent this Administration, and future Administrations, from eliminating important mining jobs and stalling our economic engine," Stauber said in a news release Monday.
Stauber said the bill, coined the "Saving America’s Mines Act," had the support of Minnesota's three other Republican representatives.
But the U.S. House, Senate and presidency are controlled by Democrats, giving the bill little chance of becoming law.
Stauber said copper-nickel mining, which has never been conducted in Minnesota, is key to bringing in well-paying jobs to the area and supplying the country with critical minerals.
Environmental groups, which argue the type of mining is too risky for Minnesota, were quick to condemn Stauber and his bill.
“Pete Stauber has peddled dangerous conspiracy theories and joined in a baseless attempt to overturn the results of a democratic election," Chris Knopf, executive director of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, said in a statement. "This latest stunt only adds to a shameful record, and shows just how subservient he is to the interests of foreign mining conglomerates."