Winona LaDuke’s counterpoint (“Latest mine scheme is another assault on Indigenous rights,” Opinion Exchange, Oct. 9“) was a disappointing read for the 73 Minnesotans who are trying hard to develop the Tamarack Nickel Project in Aitkin County in a way that respects tribal history, culture, tribal sovereign governments and seeks to establish new ways of economic benefit sharing and economic participation for tribal governments and their members.
I am proud to be part of the team that will submit a mine plan for environmental review early next year that we believe will protect the natural environment while also producing the necessary minerals and metals required in the clean energy transition. This plan will be informed by over 100 community engagement and listening sessions held in the last year with a variety of stakeholders in Aitkin and Carlton counties.
I am proud of our approach to community engagement and the work we are doing now to develop a plan that addresses concerns that we have heard from community members and tribal sovereign governments.
While I respect LaDuke as an economist, climate activist, Native American woman business owner and national Indigenous leader, I wish she had engaged directly with our team to learn more about the project before opposing it and preempting the democratically designed, science-based process to review and permit major projects in Minnesota. For someone who has passionately advocated for society to recognize the negative impacts of climate change, it is surprising that she has reached a negative conclusion about Minnesota’s opportunity to supply the necessary ingredients for the clean energy transition — especially given that the nickel, iron and copper from Tamarack are infinitely recyclable.
Talon Metals’ goals for the Tamarack Nickel project are clear: provide a domestic source of nickel for batteries made in America while also protecting the natural environment, create high-paying union jobs for working people in Aitkin and Carlton counties, work with American battery manufacturers like Tesla and recycling companies like Li-Cycle to ensure a domestic supply of battery minerals, and generate millions of dollars in royalty payments for Minnesota schools, local governments and regional economic development.
Our corporate statement on tribal respect (Talon-Tribal-Engagement-Consultaion-Statement.pdf) also makes clear that we are committed to respect for tribal sovereign governments, committed to cultural and environmental protection and seek to offer economic benefit sharing to tribal governments and tribal members.
Through the democratic process, Minnesota has developed a rigorous and science-based environmental review and permitting process that uses science to judge the extent to which a development project would impact the natural environment we all cherish. Upon completion of the science-based review, our elected officials who are accountable to voters make judgments about economic contributions, job creation and potential environmental risk.
This process has served Minnesotans well as we continue to grow economically while remaining focused on protecting our most valuable natural resources: clean water, clean air, healthy aquatic life, wild rice, wildlife, recreation and public health.
As the Tamarack mine plan is shaped and finalized, we have and will continue to conduct extensive public engagement and information sharing with tribal governments. When completed early next year, the mine plan will be presented to the public and submitted to the science-based state environmental review and permitting process. The process will be transparent and include significant opportunity for public input, advocacy for changes and ultimately to oppose permits.
LaDuke has apparently decided to reject the democratically produced scientific review process and opposes the Tamarack Nickel Project before it can even be proposed for consideration. While this is disappointing, I believe that most Minnesotans will not jump to such a conclusion and will wait for our team at Tamarack to propose the project and then participate in the science-based process to review the plan before reaching a conclusion.
In the meantime, LaDuke is welcome to visit Tamarack for a tour or to participate in one of our quarterly community sessions if she is willing to consider the perspectives of other people who live in greater Minnesota.
Jessica Johnson, of Tamarack, Minn., is community relations and government relations manager for Talon Metals, majority owner and operator of the high-grade nickel-iron-copper Tamarack Nickel Project.