The House voted to overturn the Obama administration’s decision to temporarily ban mining in an area of northern Minnesota’s Superior National Forest. The Minnesota’s Economic Rights in the Superior National Forest, or MINER, Act, passed 216-204, with nearly all Republicans in support and nearly all Democrats opposed, The Hill reports.
The Obama administration’s decision blocked mining for two years in an area of the forest near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, in an effort to protect those waters from potential mine waste output. The bill would also require the Forest Service to renew two-decades-old mining leases for sulfide ore in the forest that had gone unused before Obama declined to renew them in 2016.
“This is about more than 10,000 jobs which are now at risk because of the lame-duck actions by the Obama administration,” said Representative Tom Emmer, the bill’s sponsor.
“This is about billions of dollars in revenue for Minnesota’s economy and billions more in education funding for Minnesota’s schools that are now on the line. This is also about strategically important metals and minerals which are used by Americans every day,” Emmer stressed.
According to representative Doug Lamborn, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee subpanel with responsibility over the Forest Service, the bill is important both for Minnesota and the rest of the country.
“What initiated this situation is an arbitrary overreach by the Obama administration at the last minute. It was looking to score political points on its way out the door by taking the near-unprecedented action of initiating a full mineral withdrawal that was undemocratic,” he stated.
The Hill notes that while the mining leases would be renewed, any actual proposals to start mines would still have to go through state and federal approval processes, a point that the GOP highlighted to argue that the bill does not shortcut environmental protections.