ST. PAUL – State Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, said the Biden Administration’s proposed pause of mineral leasing on federal lands in the Rainy River Watershed threatens Minnesota’s ability to develop billions of dollars of state School Trust Lands’ non-ferrous mineral resources and will hinder efforts to mitigate climate change.
When Minnesota was a territory, portions of every township were set aside specifically to provide funding resources for K-12 public education. The 160-year-old plus requirement that school trust lands must be used to generate public school funding is contained in the Minnesota Constitution and reenforced in state statute today.
The Minnesota DNR’s most recent estimate indicates that over $2 billion of non-ferrous mineral reserves currently exist on school trust lands in the Duluth Complex in Northeast Minnesota.
“Minnesota has an exceptionally rigorous environmental review process that every mining proposal must undergo before it can be permitted, and any mining can occur,” Lueck said. “The Biden 20-year pause ignores the fact that our nation currently imports 78 of 94 metals, metalloids and non-fuel minerals that are instrumental in advancing the battle against climate change. This effort targeted at non-ferrous mining in Minnesota simply pushes the consequences of our personal consumption to places that do not have strong environmental and child labor protections in place.”
Lueck said all public-school students benefit from school trust revenues generated by mining and forestry. The bulk of the annual revenue that goes into the school trust corpus comes from mining in Northeast Minnesota, with benefits throughout the state, he said.
“Developing those resources on behalf of the public education system can be a major game-changer going forward for K-12 education funding in Minnesota,” Lueck said. “The interest and dividends from the school trust corpus are distributed on a per student basis. Metro-area school children also benefit greatly from mining and forestry activities on school trust lands located in Northeast Minnesota.”
Lueck said, in 2022, the Minneapolis Public School District will receive over $1.3 million, the Anoka-Hennepin Public School District will receive over $1.5 million, and the St. Paul Public School District will receive over $1.4 million, while a typical northeast school district where the mining takes place such as St. Louis County School District will receive about $78,000 in 2022.
“This action not only threatens future public education funding, but also is counterproductive to our nation’s effort to battle climate change.” Lueck said. “Shifting to more electric powered vehicles depends heavily on non-ferrous metals for the batteries. It’s ironic the federal government can’t seem to figure out which page they are on. Clean energy and less fossil fuel use or special interest groups that would rather these minerals be mined with child labor, with little regard for protecting the environment.”
Lueck said copper, nickel, cobalt, and other platinum group metals play a major part in shifting to low and zero emission vehicles, adding that importing those minerals from foreign counties poses major concerns, from foreign labor practices and our nation’s vulnerability to economic intimidation, while also “robbing highly skilled citizens of good paying jobs right here in Minnesota.”
Lueck serves House District 10B, which includes the Cuyuna Iron Range. He is also a member of the Permanent Legislative School Trust Commission and Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.