Twin Metals receives permission to proceed with exploration activities
Twin Metals Minnesota has been given permission to proceed with its exploration for minerals by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Construction of the project, a proposed underground copper-nickel mine near Ely, MN, was blocked by the Biden administration, but the state has approved a plan by Franconia Minerals, a subsidiary of Twin Metals, to drill several exploratory holes. Three are located on the edge of Birch Lake, which flows into the Boundary Waters.
The exploration licenses are located on private land and with this new drilling Twin Metals seeks to learn more about a deposit involving state and privately owned minerals.
Minnesota Public Radio reported that the exploration area is just a few miles from where Twin Metals had sought to build a massive $1.7 billion underground copper-nickel mine.
But those plans, which involved federal mineral leases, were blocked by the Biden administration, which first canceled Twin Metals’ leases, and later issued a 20-year moratorium on new mining activities over about 350 miles of the Superior National Forest located within the watershed of the Boundary Waters.
“The plan submitted to the DNR is solely for exploration purposes,” Dean DeBeltz, Twin Metals vice president of external relations and project operations said in a statement. “We have an ongoing commitment to gaining additional knowledge and data about our mineral resources, especially as the demand for these materials is increasing exponentially to help build the metal-intensive clean energy technologies we need to combat climate change.
Twin Metals says it’s requiring its contractors to use exhaust mufflers and other equipment to minimize noise and light pollution during the drilling.
“Franconia holds valid state mineral leases for the proposed exploration locations and, in accordance with state law, has a right to conduct mineral exploration activities on properties they have leased from the state,” said DNR Lands and Minerals Director Joseph Henderson.
“Our nation’s pursuit of a low-carbon energy future is driving unprecedented demand for copper and other critical minerals, and we have an ethical obligation to thoroughly evaluate our domestic sourcing opportunities. Restoring the long-held leases to Twin Metals does not guarantee approval of the project, but it does guarantee that the process moves forward as envisioned and that our state’s nonferrous projects are fairly and properly evaluated.
“Twin Metals has invested thirteen years into scientific research and engineering to understand not only the mineral resources contained within their leases, but as critically, the surrounding natural resources and how the environmental effects from the project may be minimized and avoided. They have demonstrated their commitment to advancing a mine in the most sustainable manner possible, and we are proud to support their efforts to keep moving forward,” said Julie Lucas, Executive Director of MiningMinnesota.
DNR officials stress its approval of this exploration plan does not authorize mining. Any mining proposal would still likely be years away, and would require a lengthy environmental review and permitting process.
The agency added that it imposed special conditions on Franconia to protect threatened species and water resources, and to minimize noise and light.
“All activities that take place as part of the exploration work will comply with the applicable state and federal regulations, as will the closure and reclamation activities. DeBeltz said. “After core samples are collected, they are thoroughly studied by our team to determine the mineral content, ore grade, and other unique characteristics. The samples are logged in our detailed database and housed in our core storage facility in Ely, Minn. Additionally, a portion of the core samples will be sent to the DNR’s Drill Core Library in Hibbing.
“The private and state mineral leases associated with our plan grant us the exclusive right to access the minerals for exploration. Submittal of our plan serves as the required notification to the DNR, and the agency has an important advisory role in the process. We anticipate that our exploration program will take place sometime after we have worked with the DNR to review our plan and make adjustments as necessary,” DeBeltz said.