A proposal to ban mining near the most popular wilderness area in the country is dividing members of Congress along party lines following President Joe Biden’s decision earlier this year to block federal approval of a new mine.
Democrats on the House Natural Resources Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee said last week they supported Minnesota U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum’s bill to permanently protect nearly a quarter-million acres of Superior National Forest near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from the polluting byproducts of mining for nickel, cobalt, copper and other minerals.
“There are just some places that there’s just too much risk to mine in,” McCollum, a Democrat from St. Paul, said. “There’s no room for error. There is no level of acceptable risk for toxic … drainage in this watershed. Once it’s damaged, it would be damaged forever.”
Republicans, including Pete Stauber, the panel’s ranking member, whose Iron Range district includes the Boundary Waters and the surrounding area, said the bill would needlessly block a project that would provide good-paying jobs as well as critical materials needed for electric vehicles and other products.