Twin Metals sues Biden administration, aims to reclaim mineral leases

Twin Metals Mining
Twin Metals Mining(CBS 3 Duluth)
Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 2:03 PM CDT
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HERMANTOWN, MN -- Twin Metals is suing the Biden Administration after it canceled two of the company’s federal mineral leases and continues considering a 20-year ban on copper nickel mining near the Boundary Waters.

The January decision by the Biden administration stalled Twin Metals’ proposal to build an underground copper nickel mine near the Boundary Waters.

The company was in the midst of a years-long environmental review.

The cancellation continued years of back and forth over the leases. The Obama administration first canceled them at the end of his administration and then the Trump administration renewed them again in 2019.

Twin Metals’ spokespeople hope Monday’s lawsuit will help them reclaim their mineral leases.

“We won’t back down to these arbitrary actions against our project,” said Twin Metals Director of Operations and Safety Dean Debeltz.

Those opposed to the project are worried about potential environmental impacts to the nearby watershed.

“It’s a catastrophe waiting to happen. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when Birch Lake in the Boundary Waters would be irreversibly polluted by by Twin Metals,” said Chris Knopf, Executive Director of Friends of the Boundary Waters.

Knopf wants the mining company to show their proposal is safe before it opens.

“What I would say to Twin Metals is prove it first. Show where this has operated safely for 10 years and then closed safely for 10 years before doing it here,” he said.

Those in favor cite the importance of these minerals to the nation’s current goals and the economic impact of mining those minerals in northern Minnesota.

“As the mine plan shows, the project is located in an area where Congress has allowed mining for over a century. The Twin Metals mine will be one of the most sustainable and technologically advanced mines in the country. The project’s unique geology and mining methods ensure that there is no risk to the environment from acid rock drainage,” Twin Metals spokespeople wrote in a statement.

Also in June, the federal government released an environmental study, looking at a 20-year copper-nickel mining ban near the Boundary Waters.

The U.S. Forest Service conducted that study.

It’s the latest step as the Biden administration looks to put a long-term pause on proposed copper-nickel mines within 250,000 acres of the Superior National Forest.

That would include Twin Metals, which is looking to build an underground mine near Ely.

The study was open for public comment for about a month.

Eventually, it will be up to the U.S. Interior Secretary to make the final decision.

The group “Save the Boundary Waters” released a statement on Twin Metals’ decision Monday:

“The Biden administration’s actions to protect the Boundary Waters were well-considered, consistent with legal precedent and established public policy, and reflect the will of Minnesotans and the American people. This lawsuit is destined to fail,” Becky Rom, national chair of the “Save the Boundary Waters” organization wrote.