Viewpoint: Develop potential of Minnesota's resources

The transition to renewables cannot happen without critical minerals and metals, and the only way to get them is via mining.

Kayla Christensen, Minnesota Conservative Energy .png
Kayla Christensen
Contributed / Minnesota Conservative Energy

During the 2023 legislative session we have seen a flurry of activity from the legislature in St. Paul. One of the first priorities accomplished by the DFL “trifecta” was to establish the 100% carbon-free energy by 2040 standard.

There is an elephant in the room, however, that proponents of the 100% standard continue to ignore: the transition to renewables cannot happen without critical minerals and metals, and the only way to get them is via mining. America, and in particular, Minnesota, must address the growing gulf between the expectation that clean energy will replace existing carbon-emitting generation, and the fact that we need to extract the materials necessary for the power.

This was the primary topic addressed at a field hearing of the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, hosted in Subcommittee Chair Congressman Pete Stauber’s district.

The discussion focused on how we can get the resources for our clean energy economy right here in Minnesota.

The subcommittee, which included members from across the country, heard from a geologist, a Minnesota-based mining company seeking permits to mine these materials, and a lakes-area hospitality entrepreneur about Minnesota’s vast deposits of critical minerals. Witnesses highlighted how mining and our beloved Boundary Waters have coexisted and how the natural resources industry has enhanced our tourist economy for decades, and what needs to be done to responsibly permit the mining critical to our clean economy technologies.


Minnesota has some of the richest deposits in the world of copper, nickel, cobalt, and other platinum family metals used in solar panels, windmills and batteries that will power our next-generation economy.

It is expected that the amount of nickel and cobalt needed for a cleaner economy will double in the next two years alone. According to the World Bank, humankind will need to extract as much copper in the next 25 years as we’ve mined in the last 5,000 years.

What’s more, our current sources for these materials include foreign adversaries with poor human rights and environmental records. All of us should be concerned about the human and environmental cost of raw materials, especially when being used to help “clean up” America’s economy.

Minnesota is uniquely positioned to be a leader in moving the US toward becoming truly energy independent. The prospects are exciting! We have an entrepreneurial class developing new ways to capture and store the energy consumers and businesses need. We have an amazing labor workforce clamoring to build these mines. And, most importantly, we have these precious metal resources right here in our backyard. The rigorous, science-based permitting process will ensure the metals are extracted responsibly, with the highest labor and environmental standards.

We thank Congressman Stauber and his colleagues for leading this discussion. Linking these important subjects (clean energy and mining) is a great step toward all that is possible. There are opportunities for our US senators to also lead on this issue as well, working with their colleagues in DC on responsibly permitting these and other projects.

Our own governor also has the opportunity to be a leader on this issue and champion Minnesota’s mining future, as well as advocating for businesses and entrepreneurs to develop energy innovations using our rich supply of critical minerals. Perhaps most importantly, Gov. Tim Walz also has the opportunity to work with legislators to create a permitting process that is fair, science-based and reflects his campaign promise to show “regulatory humility,” making agencies partners in permitting rather than roadblocks to investment.

Quite bluntly, the energy transition cannot happen otherwise.

Thank you, Congressman Stauber and subcommittee members, for taking this important step in this conversation around developing the full potential of our rich mineral resources in Northern Minnesota to make our cleaner economic future a reality.


Kayla Christensen, of St. Paul, is executive director of Minnesota Conservative Energy Forum.

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