President Donald Trump pledged his administration would do what it can to open up Minnesota's Iron Range and the surrounding areas for more natural resource exploration.
In a roundtable with mining industry leaders and state lawmakers before his Duluth rally, Trump was thanked for imposing 25 percent tariffs on steel by Iron Mining Association president Kelsey Johnson, which she says has resulted in increased productivity and pay.
The praise was echoed by others involved in the round-table, whose attendees also included Reps. Tom Emmer and Jason Lewis, as well as leaders from Iron Range towns.
But he was also lobbied by those in attendance on efforts to open up more federal lands for mining exploration – namely that in Superior National Forest.
Babbitt mayor Andrea Zupancich raised concern about the U.S. Forest Service's application to withdraw 234,000 acres of federal land from consideration for future mining projects.
She said this is her town's "biggest fear" that they could explore potential deposits of copper and nickel that not only provide jobs, but notes that money from mining leases contribute "billions of dollars" to school funds.
"We have a lot to gain and even more to lose."
Trump seemed receptive to the idea of more exploration of federal lands, earlier in the round-table saying: "We're working very hard to open that area up to explore it and see what's there."
Speaking specifically to Zupancich, he said: "Now you need the Department of Agriculture, it's now up to Secretary [Sonny] Perdue," adding he thinks he'll do a good job for her.
Among those opposed to the idea of withdrawing federal lands is copper nickel mining company Twin Metals, which has previously said the Forest Service's plan "will have a devastating impact on the region’s economy, eliminating the promise of thousands of good-paying jobs and billions of dollars in local investment."
During the meeting, Trump hailed his efforts at cutting regulations, making his oft-repeated claim that he has cut more regulations than any recent president, though this has been debunked as false by the New York Times, among others.
He also praised Reps. Emmer and Lewis, as well as the 8th Congressional District GOP candidate, Pete Stauber.
"Pete is outstanding, he loves this state and he loves this country," he said.