Minnesota mining push backed by new climate change law

Miners see gold in northern Minnesota, concentrations of nickel, copper, cobalt and other minerals critical to the production of batteries for electric vehicles and other equipment.

The recently passed federal Inflation Reduction Act provides billions in incentives to accelerate America’s transition to a low-carbon, renewable energy-powered economy.

The measure, signed into law this month by President Joe Biden, includes significant tax relief for wind, solar and battery power developers. The extra spending will be offset by a minimum corporate income tax and a beefed up IRS tasked with reducing the annual “tax gap” by $500 billion.

A provision of the 700-page law, however, concerns certain environmental groups.

Mining companies will be able to write off 10% of the cost of their operations if they produce “critical minerals” considered essential to national security, the economy and vulnerable to foreign supply chain disruptions. Like in mines in China, Russia and Africa.

The question: Will northern Minnesota, the Mecca of these metals, and the United States produce more of the nickel, copper and cobalt essential to a greener economy instead of outsourcing the work to other countries? , often hostile, to lower environmental standards?

Talon Metals is developing the Tamarack nickel-copper project in Aitkin and Carlton counties in northern Minnesota in partnership with mining conglomerates Rio Tinto. Talon expects to file related state permit applications early next year.

Todd Malan, Talon’s director of external affairs and head of climate strategy, noted that the new law and infrastructure laws passed by the two parties both support “the national supply chain for battery minerals” and that “the United States is blessed with significant sources of battery minerals”. such as nickel, cobalt, lithium, manganese and iron and [will] provide significant support to domestic production of batteries from the mine through recycling. »

Minnesota has some of the richest concentrations of nickel in the country, noted Henry Miles, an environmentalist and retired securities and technology professional. A supporter of the Talon Tamarack Mine, 50 miles west of Duluth, Miles is also a student of mining and environmental battles in northeast Minnesota.

He sees Talon as the candidate most likely to succeed. It is farther from the Boundary Waters boating area and Upper National Forest than the proposed PolyMet and Twin Metals mines. Twin Metals adjoins the BWCA and has been widely rejected by regulators and environmental groups (and the company sued Monday over canceled leases). PolyMet’s proposed project near Hoyt Lakes, the site of a former ore mine, appears to have a better chance.

All three are part of foreign mining conglomerates with past environmental problems.

Talon Metals, a public company, has received positive reviews from securities analysts and some geologists who cite its high-grade nickel deposits and location. He also signed a contract with Tesla.

Talon’s Tamarack Field, located near the small town of Tamarack, communicated regularly with the public, including environmental groups and adjacent Indian tribes.

The neighboring Sandy Land Strip of Mississippi Chippewa opposes the mine.

“This land is all swampy,” said President Jean Skinaway-Lawrence, who said she fears pollution from mining waste could land in Sandy Lake and other waters. “We have treaties and covenants to protect our lands and waters. It’s our heritage. I’m going to have to put my body on the line.”

The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy awaits environmental documents, consults with tribes and the skeptical “Tamarack Water Alliance”. The Sandy Lake Band and others want the industry to do better recycling of battery materials and find replacement materials. Industry says demand for electric vehicles means mining.

“We respect the duty of tribal governments to protect the environment in our region and their members’ connection to the land,” Malan said. “We are committed to providing the necessary information to tribal governments to participate in the…licensing process and to soliciting their feedback on the environmental and cultural field studies we conduct.”

The Biden administration wants to drastically reduce emissions from transportation, the main source of carbon dioxide driving climate change, as the utility industry has reduced emissions from dirty coal to cleaner natural gas, wind and solar .

Talon Metals says its so-called green nickel mining approach will have minimal environmental impact on air, land and water, including planned carbon capture and landscape remediation.

Earlier this year, Talon Metals reached an agreement with electric vehicle maker Tesla to supply at least 75,000 metric tons of nickel concentrate over six years from Talon’s planned mine in Tamarack. Talon hopes to open the mine by 2026.

Talon estimates that the mining, processing and waste management operations will employ 400 workers in well-paying union jobs. He engaged the community in discussions. He will present his case next year to regulators and stakeholders.

The bet here is that Minnesota will end up with at least one such mining operation. And it should be the world leader in environmental practices and sanitation, as well as a safe fuel for a greener, rechargeable economy. We cannot continue to rely on other countries, with questionable environmental and geopolitical interests, to do our often dirty work for us.