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Local View: Support for mine betrays heart, soul of Northeastern Minnesota

From the column: "One would think a U.S. representative of a district that is home of a world-famous canoe area would direct more energy toward ensuring that the water, air, and land of the region are preserved and protected forever."

File: Kawishiwi River in BWCAW
Canoeists paddle a quiet stretch of the Kawishiwi River near Ely, upstream from where Twin Metals proposes building an underground mine.
2002 News Tribune file photo
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In a 1987 essay, Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry listed what matters to him: “peace, economic justice, ecological health, political honesty, family and community stability, good work.” Those are excellent standards by which to judge the people whom we elect to represent us.

Congressman Pete Stauber fails the test. His attack on President Joe Biden during the president’s recent visit to Superior — Stauber wrongly claimed the administration’s policies “have been very harsh on the middle class and the blue-collar worker in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District” — demonstrated that Stauber is out of touch with the needs of his district.

Stauber voted against President Biden’s Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which is making critical investments in our physical infrastructure: repairing decaying roads, bridges (including, potentially, the Blatnik Bridge), and airports; improving water utility systems; upgrading our power grid; and expanding rural broadband. Physical infrastructure improvements that Stauber voted against will use American steel made with iron ore from his district and create good-paying jobs.

It is Stauber who has failed the middle-class families he claims to care about. Stauber voted against affordable child care, high-quality preschool, cheaper prescription drugs, affordable health care, and protecting people with pre-existing conditions. Stauber voted against labor and the right to organize.

What does Stauber vote for? Tax cuts for the very wealthy. Who does Stauber support instead of middle-class families? One is a billionaire family living in Santiago, Chile, which wants to build the Antofagasta/Twin Metals mine on public land upstream from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

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Stauber strangely alleges “the Communist regime of China … flood(s) our markets with steel and minerals sourced under some of the worst environmental and labor standards in the world.” Does Stauber really not know that Antofagasta sends its metal concentrates to China for processing and sale on the world market?

Contrast Stauber’s polemics with the approach of the Biden administration , which recently unveiled major investments in domestic industries that produce critical minerals and materials. The policy strongly supports domestic production while providing that special places , such as the watershed of the Boundary Waters, must be off-limits to mining and protected from mining impacts, stating: “Our federal land managers, in consultation with other decision makers, must have discretion to reject projects that threaten sensitive ecosystems, tribal resources, and communities where pollution prevention and mitigation are not possible. Agencies should retain and use their authority to withdraw lands from mineral entry, where necessary.”

Stauber attacks the Biden administration for its restart of the “mineral withdrawal” process to determine whether sulfide-ore copper mining — the most toxic industry in America, according to the Environmental Protection Agency — should be permitted on federal lands in the watershed of the Boundary Waters. (The administration of President Donald Trump used exactly the same process to block a proposed gold mine near Yellowstone National Park.) One would think a U.S. representative of a district that is home of a world-famous canoe area would direct more energy toward ensuring that the water, air, and land of the region are preserved and protected forever.

The Boundary Waters attracts more than 160,000 visitors annually from all over the world, according to the U.S. Forest Service. And it helps drive more than $900 million in annual economic activity while supporting more than 17,000 jobs for middle-class families and blue-collar workers, as the nonprofit Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters has determined. Why does it seem Stauber doesn’t want to protect this incredible resource and the jobs that support families in his district?

Stauber’s support for Antofagasta’s Twin Metals mine proposal betrays the heart and soul of Northeastern Minnesota, in particular the Boundary Waters and the people who drive the sustainable communities of the Boundary Waters region. Stauber seems more interested in helping a Chilean billionaire who wants to mine the American people’s minerals from the American people’s lands than in helping the American people.

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

Becky Rom.jpg
Becky Rom

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