ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday said public lands in the Boundary Waters need to be protected, declining to comment on the future of a controversial mining project in the region that’s been the subject of heated political debate.
Haaland visited St. Paul to tout $9 million in federal investments for expanding and creating more urban parks, but the occasion was met with criticism from Minnesota Republicans over the Biden administration’s decision to cancel two leases for a proposed Twin Metals cooper-nickel mine in the region.
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When asked if the federal agency would allow the project to move forward in the future, Haaland said she “couldn’t answer that right now.”
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“This is a really important ecological area for not only Minnesota but also for the entire country,” she said. “I think it’s important for us to make sure whatever activity is happening on that important land that we just asses to make sure we aren’t doing anything to harm the land.”
Republican U.S. Pete Stauber, whose district includes the proposed mine site, criticized Haaland for visiting the Twin Cities but not coming to northern Minnesota to hear from his constituents who could benefit from jobs the Twin Metals project would bring to the region.
“She can find the time to come to the metro to talk about parks and trails yet refuses to come up to northern Minnesota and look into the eyes of miners that are ready to mine these critical minerals,” Stauber said.
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Haaland later said she would “love” to visit the area.
It’s been a partisan back-and-forth for years with Republicans citing economic opportunities and Democrats raising concerns over the environment. The Boundary Waters gets an estimated 250,000 visitors annually and is a critical wildlife habitat.
Former President Donald Trump’s administration reinstated the mineral rights leases and then the Biden administration reversed course years later. It ordered a study that could lead to a 20-year ban on mining upstream from the Boundary Waters.
The National Mining Association said in a statement that the Minnesota region targeted for the Twin Metals’ mine holds 4.4 billion tons of ore of copper, nickel and other minerals.
Nickel is used to make batteries in electric cars and Tesla had to raise the price of its vehicles by thousands of dollars since prices for raw materials like metals increased, according to a CBS News report. The Biden administration has a goal of having half the vehicles sold in the U.S. to be electric by 2030, CBS News reported.
Money coming to Minnesota for expanding urban parks
Haaland on Friday announced $61.1 million in grant funding is available to communities in 26 cities to create new parks and trails or revamp existing parks.
Minnesota is poised to see $9 million of that money.
“At the Interior Department, we understand that nature is essential to the health, well-being and prosperity of every family and every community in America. But not everyone has the same access to nature,” Haaland said. “We are committed to ensuring that everyone, no matter where they are from, can enjoy the benefits of nature.”
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In Minnesota, Soldiers Field Park in Rochester and Willard Park in Minneapolis will get funds for expansion and improvements. There is additional money for St. Paul to create outdoor recreation opportunities at the site of the Rice Recreation Center.
Source : https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2022/05/06/u-s-interior-secretary-deb-haaland-visits-twin-cities-to-tout-federal-investments-republicans-take-aim-at-biden-administration-over-mining/