Bondary Waters Canoe Area Wildrness
Photo credit: T.C. Worley

Interior Renews Mining Leases Near Boundary Waters

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.

Bondary Waters Canoe Area Wildrness
A colorful sky over the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness; photos by T.C. Worley

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.

After 'Year In The Wilderness' Freemans Come Home
After 'Year In The Wilderness' Freemans Come Home
Amy and David Freeman paddled out of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and into history last Friday afternoon, one year to the day since leaving civilization. Read more…

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.

The BWCAW is a pristine wilderness best explored by water

“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.

Adam Ruggiero

Adam Ruggiero is the editor-in-chief of GearJunkie and a fan of virtually all sports and activities. From biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming — if it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.