Defense Department awards $20.6 million to proposed nickel mines in Minnesota and Michigan

Sep 12, 2023, 11:18 AM

FILE - Driller Helper Chris Palmer, right, attaches a core sampling tube to a drilling rig at the T...

FILE - Driller Helper Chris Palmer, right, attaches a core sampling tube to a drilling rig at the Talon Metals Corporation drilling site, June 7, 2023, near Tamarack, Minn. The Department of Defense on Tuesday, Sept. 12, awarded $20.6 million to developers of the proposed Talon nickel mine in Minnesota under a program to strengthen domestic supply chains for critical minerals. (Ben Hovland/Minnesota Public Radio via AP, File)

(Ben Hovland/Minnesota Public Radio via AP, File)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Department of Defense on Tuesday awarded $20.6 million to developers of the proposed Talon nickel mine in Minnesota under a program to strengthen domestic supply chains for critical minerals.

The defense funds will support prospecting work in Michigan and Minnesota, and follow a $114 million grant by the Department of Energy last year to help build Talon Metals’ ore processing plant in North Dakota. The federal support stands in contrast to the Biden administration’s efforts to block two other copper-nickel mining projects in Minnesota.

Nickel is an essential component of high-temperature alloys used in aerospace, as well as stainless steel and lithium-ion batteries, the Eagle Mine on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which is slated to close around 2026 unless it secures more ore. Talon hopes to make its proposed mine near Tamarack in northeastern Minnesota the second.

“This award exemplifies the DoD’s commitment to strengthening the resilience of critical supply chains and lessening our reliance on foreign sources of vital minerals,” Anthony Di Stasio, director of the Pentagon program, said in the statement.

Talon said it will contribute $21.8 million in matching funds over about a three-year period — and use the money to buy more equipment and hire more employees to accelerate its efforts to find more high-grade nickel deposits, primarily in Michigan. Last month, Talon announced that it is acquiring the mineral rights formerly owned by Ford Motor Co. to approximately 400,000 acres (162,000 hectares) near the Eagle Mine and its processing facility.

“This funding makes clear that domestic supply of nickel is a national security priority,” Henri van Rooyen, CEO of Talon, said in a statement. “Congress and the Biden Administration have created powerful new tools to build-up domestic supply of critical minerals required for clean energy systems and national defense.”

The Defense Department on Tuesday also announced a Kings Mountain lithium mine in North Carolina. In another recent administration move, the Department of Energy said last week it was promote domestic production of critical minerals needed for the transition to cleaner energy.

Talon’s proposed underground mine in Aitkin County of Minnesota, which has a contact to supply electric carmaker Tesla, is in the early stages of environmental review. The project is a joint venture with the Anglo-Australian company Rio Tinto, the world’s second-largest metals and mining corporation.

The mine got a boost when the Department of Energy agreed to help fund its proposed ore processing plant in Mercer County of western North Dakota. But the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and other tribal and environmental groups have expressed concerns about the potential negative impacts to lakes, streams and wetlands that support important stands of wild rice and other resources near the mine site, about 115 miles (185 kilometers) north of Minneapolis.

While the Biden administration has so far backed the Talon project, it is trying to kill another proposed mine in northeastern Minnesota, the Twin Metals copper-nickel mine near Ely, which is just upstream from the pristine Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness. A federal judge last week dismissed a company lawsuit that sought to regain the critical mineral rights leases that the Biden administration cancelled. And the federal government in June raised a new obstacle to the long-delayed NewRange Copper Nickel mine near Babbitt, formerly known as PolyMet, when the Army Corps of Engineers revoked a crucial water quality permit.

National News

Associated Press

2 killed in 2 shootings with police officers in South Carolina over the weekend

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Two armed men were shot and killed in separate episodes with law enforcement over the weekend in South Carolina after officers responded to reported gunfire, authorities said. In Spartanburg County, deputies heard and saw shots being fired as they arrived to a fight in a pool between intoxicated people at a […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

2 of 9 people wounded in Michigan mass shooting at splash pad remain hospitalized, sheriff says

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — Two of the nine people wounded in a weekend shooting at a suburban Detroit splash pad remain hospitalized in critical condition, including an eight-year-old boy who has “made amazing progress” after he was shot in the head, authorities said Monday. The child’s 4-year-old brother was shot in the leg, and the […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Biden’s Title IX rule blocked by judge in 6 additional states

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s new Title IX rule expanding protections for LGBTQ+ students in six additional states, dealing another setback for a policy that has been under legal attack by Republican attorneys general. U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves referred to the regulation as “arbitrary […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

6 people, including 3 children, killed in a Georgia house fire, authorities say

NEWNAN, Ga. (AP) — Six people, including three children, were killed in a fire that destroyed a home southwest of Atlanta early Monday, the local coroner said. The children’s ages were 6, 12 and 13, the Coweta County Coroner’s Office told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The oldest victim was 70, authorities said. Their identities were not […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Man on fishing trip drowns trying to retrieve his keys from a lake. Companion tried to save him

HASTINGS, N.Y. (AP) — A man drowned in a lake in upstate New York after his keys fell into the water and he tried to retrieve them, police said. Anthony Davis, 44, was fishing with two other men in Oneida Lake in the town of Hastings just before 10 a.m. Sunday when Davis’ keys fell […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Lawmakers seek health care and retirement protections for Steward Health Care workers

BOSTON (AP) — A group of Democratic members of Congress, led by Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, is seeking reassurances that workers at hospitals owned by Steward Health Care will have their health care and retirement benefits protected. Steward last month said it plans to sell off all its hospitals after announcing that it filed […]

5 hours ago

Defense Department awards $20.6 million to proposed nickel mines in Minnesota and Michigan