President Donald Trump announced that his administration is taking steps to open a vast area of land in northern Minnesota to industry activity, undoing yet another environmental roadblock created during the Obama era.
Headlining a campaign-style rally in Duluth, Minn., Wednesday, Trump touched on a number of national issues: Criticizing illegal immigration, touting his negotiations with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un and praising the idea of a “Space Force.” The Republican president also spoke on issues of local importance to the state, where the mining industry has a major presence. A big moment came when he revealed that he would be opening the Superior National Forest — a large forest that spans the northeastern corner of Minnesota — to mining exploration.
“Tonight I’m proudly announcing that we will be taking the first steps to rescind the federal withdrawal in Superior National Forest and restore mineral exploration for our amazing people and miners and workers and for the people of Minnesota,” the president said to a cheering crowd. However, he then added that the administration would do so “carefully” and that “maybe, if it doesn’t pass muster, we won’t do it at all,” but concluding that “it is going to happen, I will tell you.”
If completed, Trump would be undoing an action taken by his predecessor. During the waning days of his administration, then-President Barack Obama blocked thousands of acres in the Superior National Forest from mining, requesting a two-year environmental study and a 20-year ban on industrial activity in the area.
The Trump White House canceled the environmental study in January. Now, administration officials are working on opening it up to exploration. The region in northeastern Minnesota, vastly rich in iron-ore and copper, is known as the “Iron Range.”
“We have a lot to gain and even more to lose if this doesn’t happen,” local Mayor Andrea Zupancich said of the potential for a copper mining boom, according to Duluth News Tribune.
Minnesota hasn’t voted for a Republican candidate for president since the 1970s, but the president’s position on trade and support of mining exploration has won over many residents with working-class roots. Trump lost the state to Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the slimmest of margins. (RELATED: Trade War With China Might Hit Coal Country)
“It was really an interesting day,” said Republican congressional candidate Pete Stauber during a Fox News interview on Thursday. “To have the president come to our great state of Minnesota and the 8th Congressional District and really support our way of life, support our miners and our timber producers. We we’re very excited and the rally was just unbelievable.”
Stauber, who is campaigning to represent the state’s 8th Congressional District, attended the Wednesday rally, where President Trump gave him a resounding endorsement.
Stauber’s district, which is currently represented by a Democrat, is emblematic of the partisan shift that has taken place in Minnesota under the Trump era. Despite voting for Obama in 2008 and 2012, the district swung heavily in the GOP’s favor, with Trump winning it by a near 16-point margin in 2016. Nestled in the northeastern part of the state where the Iron Range is located, national Republicans have heavily targeted the area.
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