MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Republican Rep.-elect Chip Cravaack said Monday that he will push to open two new precious metals mines in northeastern Minnesota as he prepares to take office after unseating 18-term Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar.
Speaking to Republican donors in Minneapolis, Cravaack outlined his strategy for staying in office past 2012: frequent appearances in the 8th District and support for the proposed mines near Hoyt Lakes and Ely. The incoming member of Congress said his first meeting after the election was with Polymet Mining Corp. CEO Joe Scipioni.
Polymet aims to mine deposits of copper, nickel and other precious metals using the former LTV Steel Mining Co. plant near Hoyt Lakes. Another precious metals mine is in the works near Ely under a joint venture between Chilean mining company Antofagasta and Duluth Metals Ltd. Both still need to clear environmental hurdles.
“This is an unbelievable asset that we have, but government has been in the way for us to tap those resources, and that is my No. 1 goal in the 8th District,” Cravaack said.
As the first Republican sent to Congress from northeastern Minnesota in more than 60 years, Cravaack said he expects to be a top Democratic target in 2012. The state GOP already counts his upset among their biggest successes for 2010. The Elephant Club, a dues-paying group of Republican insiders, gave him a standing ovation before he even started speaking at Monday’s luncheon.
“I don’t know if people who aren’t from the Range understand what a miracle this is,” Mary Ann Nelson of Minneapolis, originally from the Iron Range mining city of Eveleth, said before urging those in the room to donate to keep Cravaack in office.
Cravaack fielded friendly questions, telling the audience he’s been reading “You are here” maps to find his way around Capitol Hill.
“Since the election — you know they talk about the learning curve. Well, this has been a vertical ascent,” he said.
Cravaack said he is focused on bringing down the national debt, improving the economic climate for small businesses and undoing the health care overhaul. He declined to say how he would vote on the package of tax cuts, payroll tax cuts and extended unemployment insurance being debated in Washington, saying he hasn’t yet read the bill.
The former pilot and military veteran also said he is unhappy Oberstar’s staff has shredded unresolved constituent cases that could have been passed on to him with the constituents’ consent. Oberstar’s spokesman has said the shredding is for privacy reasons.
“That’s really in my craw,” Cravaack said.
Oberstar, meanwhile, was set to be honored on the House floor Tuesday, in a tribute led by Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn.
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