U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber is sure to feel a special sense of pride in northeastern Minnesota's mining industry and mineral resources Thursday.
He is set to host a group of U.S. Congressional colleagues on an Iron Range mining tour.
“I am very proud of our mining industry and I shout it from the rooftops in Washington, D.C.,” Stauber, Eighth District Congressman said. “I am extremely proud to bring members of Congress to northeastern Minnesota and show them our mining. Mining is our way of life.”
Seven members of the Congressional Western Caucus, all Republicans, will receive a close-up education about the region's iron ore industry, copper-nickel mining opportunities, people, and communities during the visit.
The visit includes stops at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Drill Core Library in Hibbing, a tour of United States Steel Corp.'s Minntac Mine in Mountain Iron, and an evening roundtable with invited guests from the mining industry at Iron Trail Motors Event Center in Virginia.
“I want to show my colleagues the opportunities we have in the eighth district, the amount of minerals we have to offer, and how strategically we can help with the supply chain,” Stauber said. “I'm really looking forward to this trip. This is going to generate enthusiasm in Washington so we can push back on this anti-mining administration.”
The visit comes just weeks after the U.S. Department of Interior canceled two mineral leases held by Twin Metals Minnesota on federal land at the company's proposed copper, nickel and platinum group metals mining project about nine miles southeast of Ely.
Twin Metals Minnesota in 2019 presented a mine plan to state and federal regulatory agencies.
But before the company could begin applying for permits, the leases were canceled.
The leases have been held since the mid 1960s under 11 different administrations, according to Twin Metals Minnesota.
U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington, chair of the Congressional Western Caucus, said cancellation of the leases is broken promises.
“If it can happen there, it can happen in Washington and it can happen in Arkansas,” Newhouse said. “We need to stop it here.”
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, is visiting the region for the third time.
On an earlier visit, he toured the former LTV Steel Mining Co. site near Hoyt Lakes where PolyMet Mining Corp.'s copper-nickel project is planned.
“The big ask is that we can let the process work,” Westerman said of permitting processes. “The administration in this case (Twin Metals Minnesota) came in and pulled the leases without allowing the process to work.”
Other scheduled tour attendees are: Rep. Michelle Fischbach of Minnesota, Rep. Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin, Rep. Jerry Carl of Alabama, Rep. Jay Obernolte of California, and David Bernhardt, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
Representatives from the American Exploration and Mining Association, National Mining Association, MiningMinnesota, Iron Mining Association of Minnesota, labor, and community leaders, are also scheduled to participate in the visit.
“The industry is appreciative of Mr. Stauber bringing some of his colleagues to the region to better understand the importance of these critical minerals that we have right here in Minnesota, and that we can improve our domestic supply chain and reduce our reliance on metals from foreign countries,” Frank Ongaro, MiningMinnesota executive director said.
As the nation develops more renewable energy sources and advances electric vehicle (EV) production, minerals such as copper, nickel, cobalt, and platinum group metals are needed to manufacture EV batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines.
Northeastern Minnesota's Duluth Complex contains an estimated eight billion tons of those mineral resources.
However, as the Twin Metals Minnesota and PolyMet Mining Corp. projects remain stalled in litigation or government actions, the mineral reserve remains untapped.
Environmentally-responsible domestic production of minerals is needed rather than being dependent on nations such as China for those minerals, say caucus members.
“We can do so many good things with our supply chain issues,” Newhouse said. “And we can't do it by depending on adversarial countries. We have very modern mining technologies right now and we can do it as responsibly as anyone.”
Northeastern Minnesota's six taconite plants produce iron ore pellets, the main ingredient used to make steel.
The pellets are the raw material source for the steel in automobiles, trucks, appliances, bridges, road and building construction, and the energy sector.
“This event will give northeastern Minnesotans the opportunity to showcase why we are national leaders in the production of iron ore,” Kelsey Johnson, Iron Mining Association of Minnesota president said. “My hope is that the congressional members and their staff will recognize that we have clean water, a stunning natural environment, hardworking and dedicated people, and abundant iron ore deposits.”
Newhouse said seeing and learning more about northeastern Minnesota mining is valuable to lawmakers as legislation is formed.
“Nothing is more valuable than having first-hand experience in seeing the impact it has on the lives of the people there,” Newhouse said. “I wish all 435 members of Congress could be there.”
Stauber says the up-close look at northeastern Minnesota mining provides Congressional members with important information about mining and mining processes.
“When we talk in committee work, we can talk in better fashion,” Stauber, ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources and a Steel Caucus member, said. “It's all going to be brought back (to Washington) and brought forth as we bring forward legislation on mining.”