See more of the story

Republican Rep. Pete Stauber has made mining central to his priorities.

The northeastern Minnesota congressman was one of several Republican members of Minnesota's House delegation who were able to include amendments in the massive $895 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that passed the House largely along party lines earlier this month.

Stauber's mining-focused amendment would require the Department of Defense to consult with federal agencies on critical mineral projects that affect national security.

And Stauber's Superior National Forest Restoration Act also passed the House last month. It would reinstate mineral leases that President Joe Biden's administration withdrew which total more than 225,000 acres in the Superior National Forest. It follows the Biden administration's public land order that has stopped copper and nickel mining in the Duluth Complex of the Superior National Forest.

Both of his priorities are at a standstill and are waiting to be carried over in the Senate.

Stauber says both policies would help make the country less dependent on countries like China that dominate the critical mineral supply chain to the United States and around the world. He says his Superior National Forest Restoration Act would also be a boon for the economy and Minnesota miners.

But environmental groups like the Save the Boundary Waters say Stauber's NDAA amendment is an unnecessary layer to a review process the Department of Interior already oversees. And they believe the Superior National Forest Restoration Act would be harmful to the Boundary Waters and conservation efforts in the region.

Stauber talked about his mining legislation on Thursday. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Why was it important to add this amendment in the NDAA? Why involve DoD?

Stauber: This is about not relying on the communist country of China for our strategic critical minerals. Whichever agency has the responsibility to review these mine plans of operation, what the amendment says is, you must have a consultation with the Department of Defense to see if these minerals are critical for the strategic national security of our nation. And as you know, the critical minerals that we can mine in this country are important for our defense systems. Our aircraft, et cetera, that keep our nation safe.

Q: Do you think this amendment is going to be included in the Senate's version of the NDAA?

Stauber: I'm looking forward to this amendment to be kept in the final version, and then ultimately passing with the president's signature.

(Stauber's office says it has been working with the office of Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska to get his amendment in the base bill of the Senate's NDAA, which means it could be included in the final bill.)

Q: What's next for the Superior National Forest Restoration Act? Have you spoken with any senators who plan to carry a companion bill in the Senate?

Stauber: We look forward to it passing in a bipartisan fashion out of the Senate.

The Superior National Forest Restoration Act, it doesn't automatically allow mining. It allows the process to continue.

There's been some misinformation and some confusion. I want to be very, very clear. There will be no mining in the Boundary Waters or in the buffer zone surrounding the Boundary Waters. That was decided in 1978 when the wilderness was incorporated.

Q: Where would it take place then if it's not in the Boundary Waters or buffer areas?

Stauber: Outside those areas in the Superior National Forest. The Superior National Forest is a working industrial forest, where mining and timber harvesting are a desired condition.

Q: Do you think Sen. Amy Klobuchar will carry the Superior National Forest Restoration Act in the Senate? Can you speak to any conversations you both have had?

Stauber: I hope she does. The senator has repeatedly talked about her support for mining. And so this is an opportunity to bring a good bipartisan bill to the Senate floor.

(Sen. Tina Smith is opposed to Stauber's mining bill and said in a statement that she plans to "do everything I can to organize my Senate colleagues against this legislation and protect the Boundary Waters.")

Q: Do you think it's possible for your legislation to pass so long as Biden is president?

Stauber: Yes. I do believe I believe legislation is the art of the possible. You look at this opportunity to strategically look at our national security and the minerals that we need, doing it in an environmentally sound way with union labor.

Q: Can you speak directly to the concerns raised by environmental groups?

Stauber: Any mine plan of operation has to meet the current environmental standards and labor standards. We have [the National Environmental Policy Act] that we must follow, we have labor standards that we must follow. And when you've met those standards, you ought to be able to move forward.

Q: Did you speak with Trump about this bill when he came to Minnesota? Will he sign this into law if he is elected?

Stauber: [The] National Defense Authorization Act, as it sits on the House, if that was the final bill, I do believe he would sign it. And I also believe that he would sign my Superior National Forest Restoration Act, which passed in a bipartisan fashion.

Q: Do you think Trump will visit the Iron Range or Duluth on the campaign trail?

Stauber: I can't really answer that. But I know that he has said he is putting Minnesota in play in his campaign.