Cancellation of two federal leases could block a proposed copper-nickel mine
A federal judge in Washington is overseeing a lawsuit that could determine the fate of a highly controversial copper-nickel mine that Twin Metals Minnesota is seeking to build near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
In 2016, the Obama administration denied the company’s request to renew its two federal mineral leases to mine on 5,000 acres of public land in Minnesota’s Superior Forest. Former Chief Thomas Tidwell of the U.S. Forest Service objected by writing that, “… a regionally-untested copper-nickel sulfide ore mine within the same watershed as the BWCAW might cause serious and irreparable harm to this unique, iconic, and irreplaceable wilderness area.”
Under President Donald Trump, the two mineral leases were reinstated on the grounds that the language of the leases gave Twin Metals a right to successive renewals.
A group of nine Minnesota businesses then sued the U.S. Department of the Interior, as did groups like the Wilderness Society and Friends of the Boundary Waters. The three cases were then consolidated.
This case calls into question the increasingly heated legal and political battle over whether Minnesota should allow the mining of hard-rock metals in the watery ecosystems of northeast Minnesota.
The mine plan calls for a 20,000 ton-per-day underground mining operation located in Lake County, about nine miles southeast of Ely, Minnesota. Ely Mayor Chuck Novak commented on the project, stating, “The economic impact of jobs in the mining industry is a major financial contributor to the entire state as well as local economies.”
To learn more about the Twin Metals proposal, visit: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/input/environmentalreview/twinmetals/index.html