OP-ED: Time for Feds to Respect Minnesotans’ Rights



By Laura Skaer, Executive Director American Exploration & Mining Association

Imagine two or three generations ago, your ancestors homesteaded property and acquired rights to farm the land. Over the forty or fifty years, the land was tilled, crops were planted, buildings and a home were built, the property was improved and you built a plan to support the next generations of your family.

Then, without any warning, the federal government tells you to leave your land, your home, and your improvements behind, with the only explanation you receive being that they changed their mind. No due process, no respect for property rights, no consideration of the investment and no respect for previous promises and agreements. In fact, the government creates a quasi-official process where your objection can only be heard if you travel miles away, in a city that is not your home. Well, that is exactly what is happening to Twin Metals Minnesota.

The Twin Metals story may be in many ways like your farm, only with hundreds of jobs and billions of dollars in economic opportunity for an entire region for generations on the line. This is too important to be passed off to bureaucratic gamesmanship. Companies that receive property rights and contract rights from the federal government should be confident that those rights will be honored in making long-term investment decisions. With $350 million already invested, Twin Metals has done their part, responsibly. All of us who invest in the United States and our families, expect better, deserve better. Make no mistake about it, BLM’s arbitrary change of positon and the Forest Service’s pre-decision announcement has nothing to do with protecting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and everything to do with politics.

Twin Metals Minnesota’s valid property rights go beyond attempting to discover a valuable mineral deposit, create high paying jobs and lessen America’s dependence on foreign sources of critical and strategic metals. It goes to the core of fairness and the respect our forefathers built into a government we can trust. The US Forest Service has breached that trust.

Terminating Twin Metals Minnesota’s lease rights over the unfounded fear of adverse impacts to the BWCAW and Rainy River basin defies science and ignores the directive by Congress to maintain the large areas of the Superior National Forest open for mineral exploration and development. The USFS and BLM must put property rights and contract rights above politics and renew Twin Metals Minnesota mineral leases. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the legal thing. There will be plenty of time and due process to examine the environmental impacts of a proposed responsible mine. Due process and the rule of law demand that those issues be considered in the proper form and process and not a part of the lease renewal process.

We treasure the farms we built, the schools we grow and yes, the mines producing the essential minerals that make modern life possible.  None of these deserve the disrespect of government operating beyond law and due process.

As published 7/17/2016 in Mesabi Daily News: