The Biden administration issued a 20-year mining ban in a Minnesota area that contains much of America's strategic minerals, a move that critics say kneecaps the administration's ability to curb China's dominant control over those minerals.
Biden's secretary of the interior Deb Haaland on Thursday signed a two-decade moratorium on mining in northern Minnesota's Superior National Forest. The area contains a mineral deposit that is home to 95 percent of the nation's nickel reserves and 88 percent of its cobalt, according to Twin Metals Minnesota, a company that was permitted to mine in the area until the Biden administration canceled its permits in January. Both of those minerals are crucial to the green energy supply chain, which China dominates. Nickel, for example, is used in electric vehicle batteries, while cobalt is needed for wind turbines.
The Biden administration has long promised it will compete with China by "revitalizing ... domestic manufacturing" and "securing the country's most critical supply chains." Its Thursday mining decision, however, severely inhibits its ability to fulfill that promise. Beyond the Superior National Forest's abundance of nickel and cobalt, the area is home to large deposits of copper and platinum, both of which play a large role in green energy generation and chip manufacturing.
"If Democrats were serious about developing renewable energy sources and breaking China's stranglehold on the global market, they would be flinging open the doors to responsible mineral development here in the U.S.," Rep. Bruce Westerman (R., Ark.), who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement. "While Democrats play political ping pong with American industries, China and Russia are laughing straight to the bank."
Rep. Pete Stauber (R., Minn.), whose congressional district includes the Superior National Forest, echoed Westerman's rhetoric, saying Thursday that the mining moratorium "is an attack on our way of life."
"Unfortunately, this harm to our country and our future has become the norm, as the president's goal is to put America last," Stauber said. "The only winner here is China, as Joe Biden continues to hand our adversaries every advantage possible."
The White House did not return a request for comment.
Joe Biden pledged to support domestic mining projects during his 2020 campaign; he has since opted to fund foreign mines instead. Just one month before the Biden administration's 20-year northern Minnesota mining ban, Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed an agreement with Congo and Zambia to support green energy mines in the two African nations. Biden in November also announced a $30 million investment into a Brazilian nickel and cobalt mine, and the Democrat is considering sending taxpayer funds to "around a dozen" other foreign mines, Axios reported last month.