The House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would re-open part of Minnesota's Superior National Forest to mining for precious metals.
The legislation overturns an Obama administration decision to temporarily ban all mining in the northern Minnesota forest. It would also require the Forest Service to renew contracts for sulfide-ore mining that former President Barack Obama abandoned in 2016, the Hill reports.
"This is about more than 10,000 jobs which are now at risk because of the lame-duck actions by the Obama administration," Representative Tom Emmer (R-Minnesota), who sponsored the bill, told the Hill. "This is about billions of dollars in revenue for Minnesota's economy and billions more in education funding for Minnesota's schools that are now on the line."
House Republicans have called Obama's ban, enacted during his last day in office, a presidential overreach. Meanwhile, Democrats warn that mining expansion could devastate the national forest, which includes a popular water wilderness area vulnerable to the effects of copper and nickel mining.
"If this bill passes, it will create an industrial wasteland along this chain of lakes and rivers, which so many people and businesses depend on," Representative Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota) said in a statement.