Pence visits Duluth to support Stauber and tout mining

Vice President Mike Pence speaks in front of employees.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks in front of employees at Industrial Weldors & Machinists in Duluth, on Aug. 8, 2018.
Dan Kraker | MPR News

Standing in front of a giant crusher from one of northern Minnesota's taconite mines, Vice President Mike Pence touted the Trump administration's tax policies, rolling back of red tape, and tariffs on imported aluminum and steel as ways of helping to revive northeast Minnesota's mining industry.

"American steel mills are coming back, they're hiring again, they're expanding again, and they are hungry for Minnesota iron," he told the roughly 30 employees at Industrial Weldors & Machinists who repair and rebuild massive equipment from the region's iron ore mines and paper mills.

Seventy percent of IWM's business comes from the iron mining industry, and that business has picked up in the past year, said Randy Abernathy, who owns the business with his three siblings.

"We've been kind of stagnant for a while, and hopefully we're going to turn the corner and get moving. We've got a lot of new work coming in from the mines, so when they're busy, we're busy," he said.

Pence also pledged support for proposed copper-nickel mining in northeast Minnesota.

The Obama administration, before leaving office, proposed a 20-year moratorium on new mining activity on federal land within the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

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The federal government is currently conducting an environmental review of the proposal. The Secretary of the Interior would ultimately decide whether to impose the "mineral withdrawal," as the proposed moratorium is known.

But Pence said President Trump "is rolling back the ban. And we are clearing the way as we speak for new mines to bring not just Minnesota iron, but nickel and copper forward for the American economy."

"As the President said when he was in Duluth a couple months ago, it's going to happen," he added.

Earlier in the day, Pence also appeared at a $1,000 per person fundraiser for GOP 8th District Congressional candidate Pete Stauber.

Republicans see the 8th as a prime pickup opportunity and are investing heavily in Stauber. Pence's visit comes less than two months after President Trump held a rally in Duluth.

Trump easily carried the district in 2016, and incumbent Democratic Congressman Rick Nolan, who eked out a victory two years ago in one of the most expensive races in the country, is stepping down to run for Lieutenant Governor.

Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin said Pence's visit to Duluth showed the Trump administration is worried about the race in the 8th District.

"If we've learned anything about Donald Trump, it's that in order to receive his support, he demands unquestioned loyalty. Pete Stauber has positioned himself to be just another Republican rubber-stamp for the ethically challenged Trump," Martin said in a statement.

Pence hinted that both he and Trump might be back in Minnesota to stump for Stauber again.

"We think he's exactly the kind of common sense leader that we need in Washington, D.C., to continue to move this country forward."