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Feds Deny Twin Metals Mineral Lease Renewal

The move by the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture deals a major blow to the prospect for a copper-nickel mine on the Iron Range.

The prospect of a copper-nickel mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness are looking poorer after bureaus within the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture denied the mineral lease renewal of Twin Metals Minnesota today.
 
The departments cited thousands of public comments about the potential impacts of mining in the BWCAW’s watershed as the reason for denying the application. The types of mining Twin Metals was pursuing run the risk of acid mine drainage, which could contaminate lakes and rivers in the area.
 
“There’s a reason that the Boundary Waters is one of the most visited wilderness areas in America: it’s an incredible place,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement. “This is the right action to take to avoid irrevocably damaging this watershed and its recreation-based economy.”
 
Twin Metals, which said it has invested more than $400 million in acquisition, exploration, environmental and other costs, expressed disappointment in the news.
 
“If allowed to stand, the [Bureau of Land Management-United States Forest Service] actions will have a devastating impact on the future economy of the Iron Range and all of Northeast Minnesota, eliminating the promise of thousands of good-paying jobs and billions of dollars in investment in the region,” the company said in a statement. “Further, this unprecedented decision is contrary to the overwhelming majority of local and regional citizens and communities who support mining and believe mining can be done responsibly in this region.”
 
If the agencies’ decision stands, it could be a major blow to mining on the Iron Range. Supporters of the project have said that the mining, once fully operational, would provide 850 full-time jobs with another 1,700 to 1,900 indirect jobs created. The mine is expected to run for 30 years and produce 50,000 tons of mineralized ore per day.
 
The company added that it would pursue legal action in order to keep the project on track. The mineral leases in question have been in effect for over 50 years and were lasted renewed in 1989 and 2004.
 
Gov. Mark Dayton celebrated the news, saying that while he is not opposed to mining, he wants to protect what he called “priceless environmental wonder.”
 
“Today’s announcement is tremendous news for the protection of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a crown jewel in Minnesota, and a national treasure,” he said in a statement.
 
Supporters of the mining project hope that the incoming Trump administration will overturn the decision.
 
“There’s a new administration coming to town and, hopefully, they will work to undo this silliness,” Frank Ongaro, executive director of trade group Mining Minnesota, told the Duluth News Tribune.

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