General Kinnematics

Forest Service proposes plan that would block Twin Metals Mine

October 21, 2021

The U.S. Forest Service has initiated a mineral with drawl study on nearly 93,000 ha (230,000 acres) in northeast Minnesota that could result in a 20-year ban on mining in Minnesota's Boundary Waters region, a move that would block Antofagasta Plc’s. Twin Metals copper and nickel mine project.

In a statement on Oct. 20, Twin Metals said it was deeply disappointed with the decision yet that the company “(is) working to determine the best path forward to continue advancing our proposed world-class underground copper, nickel, cobalt and platinum group metals mine. We are firmly dedicated to the communities of northeast Minnesota and to advancing a sustainable mining project that will bring much-needed economic growth to our region, in addition to the opportunity to responsibly develop the critical minerals needed for our global efforts in combatting the climate crisis.”

The announcement from the U.S. Forest Service resumes a process started by former President Barack Obama’s administration to block mining in the region. That decision was put on hold by President Donald Trump.

The study will set off a review of how mining could affect the popular outdoor recreational area and t freezes issuance of new mining leases or permits in the region for two years, Reuters reported.

The proposed underground mine would become a major U.S. supplier of copper, nickel, cobalt and platinum group metals. Twin Metals is owned by Antofagasta plc, one of the top ten copper producers in the world.

Environmentalists have long feared mining would destroy the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a 405,000 ha (1 million acre) preserve on the U.S.-Canada border.

The Forest Service move is the latest example of President Joe Biden's plan to look abroad for metal supplies and focus on domestic processing into battery parts. The strategy, which Reuters reported earlier this year, was a move by Biden to shore up support with environmentalists and counter to his private commitment to miners during the 2020 presidential campaign to allow more domestic mining.

The company's engineers said in a recent interview they had devised a plan to refrain from mining within 120 m (400 ft) of the surface, avoid ground subsidence and use renewable energy.

The U.S. Forest Service, part of the Agriculture Department, controls the surface land at the site. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, part of the Interior Department, controls the underground copper deposit and must approve plans to extract minerals.

Biden's administration can block mining in the region for up to 20 years. Only an act of Congress can permanently block it, and that step was proposed in a bill introduced this year by U.S. Representative Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat who represents a district about 370 km (230 miles) south of the mine site. The fate of the bill remains unclear.

U.S. Representative Pete Stauber, a Minnesota Republican whose district includes the mine site, said the decision was based on politics, not science, weakens national security and helps China, the world's largest copper consumer.

"I am furious that my constituents in northern Minnesota won't have the opportunity to mine these minerals with these good paying jobs," said Stauber.

 

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