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Local View: Canceling Twin Metals' leases doesn't jibe with Biden's climate goals

From the column: "Americans should implore President Biden and Congress to accept the clear scientific benefits of allowing Twin Metals to proceed through the established review processes."

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Dave Whamond / Cagle Cartoons
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For years now, the United States has led the way in combating climate change. The administration of President Joe Biden has pushed for the widespread adoption of green technologies as a key part of that effort.

If we fail to reach our goals as a nation, however, history may show the administration was its own biggest enemy.

The federal government’s recent decision to reverse its position and cancel Twin Metals Minnesota’s long-held mineral leases, in addition to proposing a 20-year mineral withdrawal in Northeastern Minnesota, demonstrates a stunning lack of understanding regarding the supply chains for green-energy technologies needed to fight climate change. The region where Twin Metals Minnesota has proposed to mine contains one of the largest untapped copper-nickel deposits in the world. Taking this area and this project off the table for mining is completely contradictory to the administration’s own climate-change goals and its efforts to secure domestic mineral supply chains, as laid out in a Feb. 22 White House announcement.

These actions short-circuited the mine-permitting process under the guise of environmental concerns, without conducting the environmental review prescribed in law. Twin Metals deserves the chance to go through the years-long environmental-review processes. Keep in mind that, if permitted to mine, Twin Metals would do so under some of the most stringent environmental and labor standards on the planet.

The raw materials Twin Metals proposes to safely mine are vital for creating green-energy solutions like solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and the batteries that store their power. Minerals from Twin Metals alone would support the production of 280,000 electric vehicles per year, preventing 2.3 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

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In order to reduce America’s carbon footprint, President Biden set the aggressive timetable to reach 50% vehicle electrification by 2030, only to then force car companies to procure the raw materials needed for their fleets from across the globe, in countries like China or the Democratic Republic of Congo. Those countries have intensive greenhouse-gas emissions, not to mention ongoing human-rights violations.

We can secure our environment and reduce emissions if America embraces the safe extraction of critical resources on its own soil. For too long we have been dependent on other countries to supply our critical minerals. Yet the administration has both emphasized the need for creating a domestic supply chain and placed a proverbial scarlet letter on local mining companies that plan to use the most innovative, sustainable technologies and practices available to extract the minerals needed to create that technology safely.

The federal government’s actions highlight an already painstakingly slow and tortuous task of getting new mines up and running in the United States. If the federal government will not allow Twin Metals to responsibly extract these minerals, where will America procure these materials?

These are extraordinary risks that the American people shouldn’t be asked to bear. Thankfully, Twin Metals has a legal right to challenge the administration’s action and defend its valid existing mineral rights and has already confirmed its intent to do so. Americans should implore President Biden and Congress to accept the clear scientific benefits of allowing Twin Metals to proceed through the established review processes.

America’s hardrock miners operate with the highest environmental and labor standards in the world, and we can all be proud of the work they do and the materials they provide. But they can only do that if we give them a fair shot. If President Biden pulls the plug on the Twin Metals project, he’ll be hurting himself, and America, more than he knows.

Mark Compton is executive director of the American Exploration & Mining Association (miningamerica.org), a 127-year-old, 1,300-plus-member national association based in Spokane Valley, Washington. It advocates for the minerals industry. He wrote this for the News Tribune.

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