Stauber introduces bill to limit environmental review of mines to 3 years
It would also limit the window lawsuits could be filed to 120 days after the permit is issued.
DULUTH — A bill authored by U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber would limit a mining project's environmental review to three years.
The Republican congressman from Hermantown on Monday introduced the "Permitting for Needs Act of 2023," which aims to "streamline the permitting process for mining projects nationwide to secure domestic mineral supply chains," Stauber's office said in a news release.
- Designate a lead agency to oversee the permitting process.
- Set environmental review deadlines to three years — one year for an environmental assessment and two years for an environmental impact statement. The bill does allow for timeline extensions.
- Limit the window lawsuits could be filed to 120 days after the permit is issued. The bill does not place a time limit on filing claims that the terms of a permit were violated.
- Ensuring the consideration of adding uranium back on the critical minerals list by removing it from the explicitly excluded minerals list.
“Our country, including my northern Minnesota district, is blessed with vast mineral wealth that should supply many of our needs,” Stauber said in the release Monday. “Unfortunately, our current permitting process fails to deliver our resources because it is far too often abused by keep-it-in-the-ground activists who oppose mining solely on ideological grounds. My PERMIT-MN Act empowers our mining community nationwide to harvest our resources and secure our domestic supply chains."
Stauber and other pro-mining advocates have said the Biden administration is hypocritical for signaling support for mining minerals needed for electric vehicles while actively seeking to delay domestic projects like Twin Metals, the proposed copper-nickel mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
They've also criticized the administration for striking deals to source minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has cobalt mines with well-documented histories of using child labor.
Stauber introduced a similar bill in September when the U.S. House was still controlled by Democrats.
But now, with Republicans in control of the U.S. House, Stauber will chair the Natural Resources Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee, which oversees energy production and mining on federal lands.
But if it does pass the House, the bill still faces the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate.
Last month, Stauber told Fox News that his subcommittee will investigate the Biden administration's mining policies, noting the Biden administration's opposition to Twin Metals.
"We are not only going to legislate, but we're going to have oversight," Stauber told Fox News. "We want to know why this administration continues to not allow mining in the United States. We want to know why they've pulled federal permits without allowing an environmental impact statement to move forward."
Twin Metals, a subsidiary of Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, has been trying to open an underground mine processing plant and dry-stacked tailings storage facility on the edge of Birch Lake, which flows into Kawishiwi River and then the BWCAW itself.
But the Biden administration has long signaled its intention to permanently restrict mining within the Rainy River Watershed, returning to Obama-era restrictions that effectively killed the Twin Metals project but were subsequently reversed by the Trump administration.
In June, the Forest Service released a study that said hardrock mining within the watershed would pose an environmental risk to the BWCAW. The document will be used by the Biden administration as it considers a 20-year moratorium, or ban, on mining within the Rainy River Watershed.
This story originally incorrectly described what effect the bill would have on uranium's status on the critical mineral list. It was updated at 10 a.m. Jan. 11. The bill would remove uranium from the explicitly excluded minerals list. The News Tribune regrets the error. A line was also added to clarify environmental reviews could be extended beyond three years.