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Local View: Twin Metals' mined Minnesota resources likely to end up in China

From the column: "Although Antofagasta executives ... stand to profit handsomely from this arrangement, the U.S. could be left to buy back our own precious metals from China."

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David A. Lien
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Recently, members of Congress have been visiting Taiwan, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn (Senate Commerce and Armed Services committees), Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (House Intelligence Committee), and others, defying pressure from Beijing to halt the trips.

As explained in The Hill on Aug. 3 , “Pelosi … became the highest-ranking U.S. official to set foot in Taiwan in 25 years, angering Beijing.” Business Insider Senior Politics Reporter Brent Griffiths noted that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and 25 other Senate Republicans signed a statement praising her travel to Taiwan and standing up to China.

Unfortunately, here in Minnesota, a Chilean-owned mining company, Twin Metals, is looking to sell our state’s natural resources to China. Antofagasta, the Chilean parent company of Twin Metals, wants to build a sulfide-ore copper mine in the same watershed that’s home to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. However, Antofagasta sends its copper to China for smelting, as Scott Beauchamp of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Action Network, among others, pointed out in an April commentary in the News Tribune. Although Antofagasta executives in Chile would stand to profit handsomely from this arrangement, the U.S. could be left to buy back our own precious metals from China.

Then there’s the question of jobs. A 2018 Harvard University study estimated that between 260 to 650 temporary mining jobs would be created for the 20-year operating life of the mine, while 4,400 to 6,600 of the existing 12,600 jobs in tourism and outdoor recreation in the watershed could be permanently lost. Additionally, absent a mine, the study predicts the area would add 1,500 to 4,600 more jobs and up to $900 million more in personal income over the same 20-year period.

“A renowned hunting and fishing destination, the BWCA offers visiting anglers great opportunities for northern pike, walleye, lake trout, and hard-fighting smallmouth bass,” Field & Stream contributor Travis Hall wrote this summer. “Hunters willing to ply the Boundary Waters’ remote, motorless terrain can pursue ruffed grouse, whitetail deer, bears, and even moose.”

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“It is a vast boreal forest consisting of interconnected lakes, streams, wetlands and aquifers that provide some of the best fishing the world has to offer,” Lukas Leaf, executive director of Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters, wrote in the Winter 2020 Backcountry Journal. “Glacial movements bore out over a thousand lakes. More than a hundred of those lakes are deep, clear and well-oxygenated, holding native lake trout and, more often than not, big-ass northern pike.”

“Taiwan is our strongest partner in the Indo-Pacific Region. Regular high-level visits to Taipei are long-standing U.S. policy,” Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn said in a statement, as Reuters reported Aug. 25. “I will not be bullied by Communist China.”

Neither will hunters and anglers. We won’t stand by and watch as Minnesota’s natural resources are turned over to a foreign company that in turn plans to sell those resources to communist China. Adding insult to injury, now Twin Metals is suing over two canceled mining leases.

“The Boundary Waters is America’s most visited wilderness for good reason: No other place compares to these public lands and waters that are utterly unique,” Land Tawney, president and chief executive of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA), said in Field & Stream last month. “The lawsuit brought by Twin Metals is, quite frankly, doomed. It fails to acknowledge the will of the people — the millions of hunters, anglers, and others who spoke up in support of the Boundary Waters’ permanent conservation.”

“There has never been a copper/sulfide mine that hasn’t leached. Never,” Tawney additionally stated in the winter 2020 edition of Backcountry Journal. “Right now, the future of the Boundary Waters hangs in the balance. … There shall be no mine here … not ever … not on BHA’s watch.”

David A. Lien is formerly of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, is an author, and is the founder and former chairman of Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (backcountryhunters.org).

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