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Local View: Copper-mining ban would have no effect on iron mining

From the column: Also, "Stauber’s claim that the area of the proposed Twin Metals mine is 'an industrial, working region of the Superior National Forest' is silly.

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2019 News Tribune file photo
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Congressman Pete Stauber’s use of scare tactics continues. His current false claim, in a press release and congressional statements, is that a ban on mining federal minerals on Superior National Forest lands in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness would harm, or even kill, iron and taconite mining in the same lands. It is not true.

The Iron Mining Association of Minnesota website includes a map of iron and taconite formations. The map shows no formations of federally owned iron or taconite on federal lands in the withdrawal area. Further, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website map shows no iron ore or taconite deposits or formations in federal minerals in the withdrawal area.

There is more. The proposed federal legislation that would permanently ban sulfide-ore copper mining on national forest lands in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters reads: “The Chief of the Forest Service is authorized to permit the removal of sand, gravel, granite, iron ore, and taconite from national forest system lands within the area depicted on the Map if the Chief determines that the removal is not detrimental to the water quality, air quality, and health of the forest habitat within the Rainy River Watershed.”

A Biden administrative mineral withdrawal and a congressional mineral withdrawal would have no effect on taconite or iron ore mining or on steel production in America.

Stauber’s claim that the area of the proposed Twin Metals mine is “an industrial, working region of the Superior National Forest” is silly. In fact, South Kawishiwi River and Birch Lake — ground zero for a proposed Twin Metals mine with its toxic activities and a vast surface infrastructure spread out over miles of shoreline area and woods — are in an enormously valuable recreational and residential region. It features two heavily used Boundary Waters entry points, two popular Forest Service campgrounds, public boat launches, historic Forest Service log buildings used by the community, Voyageur Outward Bound School, several acclaimed resorts, outfitters, houseboat rentals, and scores of homes. It is beloved by anglers, boaters, canoeists, hikers, hunters, and berry pickers. What you will not find is an industrial forest.

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President Donald Trump signed legislation banning mining on national forest lands in Montana to protect Yellowstone National Park and in the state of Washington to protect the Methow Valley. His administration also banned mining on more than 100,000 acres in Oregon to safeguard critical watersheds. Republicans and Democrats united to ensure that those special places would be free from the threat of hardrock-mining contamination.

Tom Tidwell, chief of the U.S. Forest Service in the Trump administration, said a mineral withdrawal in the Boundary Waters headwaters was more important than the three mineral withdrawals described above — and critical to ensuring the health of the canoe country.

Stauber’s hostility to the Boundary Waters and to his constituents who fight to preserve the Boundary Waters, the most visited national wilderness in the nation, means he has failed us and the American people. His blind loyalty to a corrupt foreign mining company is wrong for Northeastern Minnesota.

Becky Rom of Ely is the national chair of the nonprofit Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters (savetheboundarywaters.org).

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Becky Rom

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