Interior Department renews leases for Twin Metals mine project

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The U.S. Interior Department said it has reinstated the mineral rights leases for a company that wants to build a copper-nickel mine near Ely in northeastern Minnesota, reversing a decision to deny the renewals that was made in the closing weeks of the Obama administration.

The department’s Bureau of Land Management informed Twin Metals Minnesota of its decision in a letter, company spokesman Bob McFarlin said. The move followed a legal opinion from the department’s solicitor last December that concluded that Twin Metals has the right to renew its two leases, which date back to 1966.

President Barack Obama’s administration had cited the potential harm from acid mine drainage to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area when it declined to renew the leases in December 2016, dealing what could have been a fatal blow to the project. The proposed mine site sits in a watershed that flows into the pristine wilderness area.

In a statement, Twin Metals said the company was pleased with the department’s action, calling it “an important step in the lease renewal process.” Twin Metals said the reinstatement also will allow the company to resume environmental study and project development activities on the federal leases this summer.

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