The federal government gave Twin Metals Minnesota the green light to explore controversial mining opportunities near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which have been the focus of heated debate for years.
After overturning an Obama-era ban on mining near the BWCAW last year, the Department of the Interior renewed Twin Metals’ mineral leases Wednesday, according to the Duluth News Tribune. The move raised fears that potentially harmful runoff from copper-nickel mining could impact two of America’s most pristine wilderness areas.
Both Twin Metals and Polymet Mining possess mineral leases to prospect mining projects near Superior National Forest that date back years – decades in Twin Metals’ case. The latter company currently has mining proposals under public comment. Both corporations saw those leases hit a wall near the end of the Obama administration in the wake of strong public opposition, including Amy and Dave Freeman’s yearlong Boundary Waters encampment.
Feds Renew Mining Lease Near BWCAW
Mining proponents say copper-nickel mining will create thousands of jobs and an economic boom to rural communities. And Twin Metals spokesman Rick McFarlin told the Star Tribune any mining still has to face environmental review.
“Every well, every hole in the ground, every road, every step of the way, every action … goes through a permitting process and an environmental review,” he said.
But opponents point to Obama-era impact studies that led to the 2016 ban and say any environmental review after the mining leases are issued are useless.
“The mineral leases grant the right to explore, build mine facilities, and to mine,” Becky Rom, national chair of Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters told the Star Tribune. “The only thing environmental review does later is look at how.”
Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, an advocacy group opposed to the proposed mines, also said it intends to file a lawsuit challenging the Interior’s decision.