Jensen pledges support for northern Minnesota mining projects, rolling back regulations – Duluth News Tribune

ST. PAUL – Republican nominee for governor of Minnesota Scott Jensen on Thursday unveiled his plan to support “many traditional foundations” of northern Minnesota’s economy, including mining and the lumber industry, and to ease regulatory burdens on the industry.

The Jensen campaign called for support for copper-nickel mining in northern Minnesota, a controversial practice that could bring many high-paying jobs to the region but threatens to pollute water resources. Other measures included supporting the timber industry and ending what he called regulatory “micromanagement” of forests.

“I want the people of northern Minnesota to understand that I am 100% in their corner to make sure their way of life and their families are protected,” Jensen said in a statement about the plan. “There can be no greater contrast to Tim Walz and I than on the issue of promoting and protecting our jobs, particularly in the mining industry. Tim Walz wants to regulate the profession to death and I want to let miners mine.”


performed in the towns of the Iron Range in Virginia

and Eveleth on Thursday along with US Rep. Pete Stauber, a Hermantown Republican representing the 8th congressional district, to promote mining. Jensen’s plan also includes tax incentives for economically troubled areas and proposed trade education programs.

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Gov. Tim Walz has not opposed the issuance of permits for mining projects in northern Minnesota, but has complied with the extensive permitting and environmental assessment process required for new mines.


Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, right, and challenger Scott Jensen prepare for their televised debate Tuesday at the KTTC-TV studio in Rochester.

Ken Klotzbach / MPR News

In Tuesday’s televised gubernatorial debate, Walz gave a less-than-specific response to Twin Metals’ proposed copper-nickel mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, for which the Biden administration revoked permits in January. The decision reversed the Trump administration’s 2019 renewal of federal mineral leases.

When asked if he would support the Twin Metals mine if the federal government reinstated permitting for the project, Walz said he would follow federal environmental guidelines, but didn’t answer the question directly. Jensen said he will support the project.

New mines in northeast Minnesota have failed to garner majority support in the state in recent years. A 2020 Minnesota Public Radio/Star Tribune poll found that 60% of Minnesotans oppose new projects near the Boundary Waters.

Walz stopped by the Iron Range in early October and met with two employers to highlight investments that are expanding employment opportunities in the area. Stops included solar array maker Heliene USA in Mountain Iron and US Steel’s Keetac mine in Keewatin, which recently announced it would receive a $150 million upgrade to its taconite pellet production capacity.

Other environmental and regulatory issues in Jensen’s plan include a commitment not to interfere with pipeline projects. The Walz administration sued to block Enbridge’s controversial Line 3 replacement project in 2019, although the governor later expressed support.

“I think I have a very progressive environmental record, but I’m also a realist, and we have to move oil, and we have to move it safely,” Walz said in a 2021 interview with the Duluth News Tribune editor. “So, I said, we’re going to replace an aging pipeline because the law says so. (The project has) stood up in court.”

Boswell Energy Center

The Boswell Energy Center in Cohasset.

Bob King/Files 2009/Duluth News Tribune

Jensen also supported the continued operation of the Boswell Energy Center, a coal-fired power plant in Cohasset, Itasca County, northwest of Grand Rapids in his plan. Operator Minnesota Power is scheduled to phase out one coal-fired generator by 2030 and convert the other to non-coal by 2035. But state regulators have suggested that utilities shut down coal plants five years early.

Aside from regulatory and environmental issues, Jensen’s plan includes encouraging capital investment in areas experiencing economic difficulties, as well as providing tax credits for job creators and creating tax-free zones to encourage economic development. The plan also calls for partnerships between K-12 schools, state colleges, unions and employers to create a pipeline for workers interested in careers.