Federal Mineral Withdrawal Threatens Climate Progress

January 26, 2023

Jan 26, 2023 

Saint Paul, MN –  In a statement today, LIUNA Minnesota and North Dakota leaders responded to the Biden Administration’s decision to move forward with a moratorium on copper nickel mining within the Rainy River Watershed in Northern Minnesota.

Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s order withdraws more than 225,000 acres of land and minerals in Northern Minnesota from exploration and new mineral leasing and potential development for 20 years.

Joel Smith, President and Business Manager, said “LIUNA Minnesota and North Dakota is disappointed by this mineral withdrawal. Our union is leading the way on climate action here in Minnesota, but without reliable supplies of copper, nickel and critical minerals, our climate goals will not be achievable. You can’t build electric vehicles, battery storage, wind turbines or solar panels without metals that could be mined responsibly right here in Minnesota.”

Dan Olson, LIUNA Local 1091 (Duluth-Superior) Business Manager said, “The Twin Metals mine will be constructed entirely with union labor and once operational, it will employ 750 full time workers and create another 1,500 spinoff jobs. It’s wrong to shut the door on our ability to responsibly develop the minerals that are needed by our nation and the world to combat the climate crisis.”

Shawn Braford, LIUNA Local 1097 (Iron Range) Business Manager said, “Northern Minnesota is home to the world’s largest known undeveloped copper-nickel deposit. We can mine copper and nickel safely here in Minnesota. Our members and our neighbors have relied on mining for generations. Our leaders need to stop playing political football with our jobs and our futures.”

Hundreds of LIUNA members from across Minnesota submitted comments in opposition to the mineral withdrawal. On August 12, 2022, LIUNA Minnesota and North Dakota submitted comments to the United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management encouraging the United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Department of the Interior to reject the Rainy River Withdrawal:

  • The mineral withdrawal will have a devastating impact on the future well-being of Northern Minnesota, our nation and planet.
  • The mineral withdrawal will undermine the goals of the National Environmental Policy Act, the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act, and public support for environmental regulation.
  • An explicit or de facto ban on mining in the Rainy River Watershed would be arbitrary and capricious, and would contradict the clear intent of Congress and the Minnesota Legislature.
  • The mineral withdrawal could have profound and negative effects on our economy, efforts to combat climate change and protect our national security.
  • There is no reason to depart from a permitting framework that has protected the environment while supporting sustainable economic development for decades. 

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