MOUNTAIN IRON/ELY — For most of the first half of 2017, the Iron Range has remained laser-focused on its goals in Washington, D.C.
Far from the now-bustling taconite mines and majestic scenery of northeastern Minnesota is where the real political fight to death is taking place. That might not be hyperbole either: What’s happening in Washington is — quite possibly — one of the most important issues the Iron Range has ever faced.
In December 2016, a little more than a month before it was phased out, the Obama administration took unparalleled steps on two actions that could stunt growth in the region. In one action, the administration denied leases to Twin Metals and its potential underground copper-nickel mine near Ely and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. In the second, it placed a two-year moratorium on mining for 234,000 acres of land in the Superior National Forest near the BWCAW, with the intent of studying industrial impacts on the watershed and consider a 20-year ban on those activities.
The timing was inauspicious considering in December 2015, the same Obama administration met with Iron Range leaders and mining executives in the first toward enforcing the tariffs that effectively saved the U.S. steel industry from another 1980-esque prolonged bust.
Since then, however, a lot has happened in the nation’s Capital. A new administration fronted by President Donald Trump, and in two a former steel executive named Wilbur Ross as the secretary of commerce.
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