The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday announced that it had revoked an environmental permit for a Minnesota mine, just one week after the company behind the project announced that it was ready to begin construction on the nation’s second nickel-producing mine.
While the Corps had originally approved a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit for NewRange Copper Nickel’s NorthMet mine, the permit was suspended at the request of President Joe Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in March 2021 and revoked after reviewing evidence from a May 2022 public hearing, which led the Corps to conclude the project would violate water quality standards, the agency said in a press release. Just one week ago on May 30, NewRange announced that it had begun to prepare the NorthMet site so it would be ready “once the project receives final approval” at an estimated cost of $18 million to fund the work of 120 union workers.
“We are pleased to put Minnesotans to work and ready the site for construction and at the same time recycle and return tons of metal and concrete to beneficial use,” Tannice McCoy, general manager at NewRange, said in a press release at the time. “This investment will lead to a safer work environment and trim precious months off the construction schedule when the project is given the go-ahead. Demand for clean energy critical minerals is growing and we will continue to create opportunities to put people to work so that we can safely and responsibly deliver these clean energy critical minerals to the North American supply chain.”
Nickel is a key component in batteries for electric vehicles — the promotion of which is a cornerstone of Biden’s domestic policy — but major automakers are growing increasingly concerned that they will be unable to find enough nickel to meet surging demand without relying on China, according to The Wall Street Journal. Despite the Biden administration’s stated goal of weaning the U.S. off of Chinese supplies of “critical minerals,” various agencies across the executive branch have blocked several mining projects across the nation and opted against recognizing copper as a critical mineral, even as China’s dominance of the minerals industry continues.
“The Biden Administration continues their assault on northern Minnesota and our way of life,” Republican Rep. Pete Stauber of Minnesota said in a press release responding to the decision. “We are on the cusp of delivering for the world and our country an ethically and responsibly sourced supply of these greatly needed critical minerals for our everyday life. Again today, this activist administration took another step toward killing yet another domestic mining project in the largest copper nickel find in the world.”
Stauber continued, describing the Army Corps’ decision as a “gift” to the Chinese Communist Party that would make the U.S. more reliant on Chinese minerals “sourced by child labor” and lacking environmental controls.
PolyMet Mining, a holding company which owns a 50% interest in the NewRange mine, and the Army Corps of Engineers did not immediately respond to a Daily Caller News Foundation request for comment.
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