Twin Metals’ lawsuit over proposed mine near BWCA dismissed by federal judge

The copper-nickel mine would be located south of Ely near Birch Lake
Twin Metals Mining
Twin Metals Mining(CBS 3 Duluth)
Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 1:04 PM CDT
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Ely, MN. (Northern News Now) - Twin Metals’ lawsuit to have mining rights reinstated near the Boundary Waters has been dismissed by a federal judge.

The U.S. District Court judge filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit Wednesday.

Twin Metals had sued the Biden Administration last year after it canceled two of the company’s federal mineral leases and continues considering a 20-year ban on copper-nickel mining in the Rainy River watershed.

The lawsuit alleged the Department of the Interior acted illegally in canceling federal mining leases that are crucial to the planned $1.7 billion mining project. Twin Metals had asked the court to order that the leases were valid so the company could proceed with the environmental review and permitting process.

In his opinion, the judge ruled the court lacks jurisdiction over two Twin Metals’ claims and said the remaining two fail to actually state a claim. The judge did leave an opportunity for an appeal.

The decision is the latest chapter in a political back-and-forth for permits to build an underground mine southeast of Ely, near Birch Lake.

In its final weeks, the Obama administration declined to renew two federal mineral leases Twin Metals needed for the mine.

The Trump administration then reversed the decision and reinstated the leases.

But, the Biden administration canceled the leases and imposed a 20-year mining moratorium on 225,504 acres around the Boundary Waters, including the area where Twin Metals wants to mine.

The Minnesota DNR also stopped its environmental review of the project this year, citing the company’s loss of federal leases.

Those opposed to the project are concerned about the environmental impacts of the mine, saying the risk of acid mine drainage poses an unacceptable threat to the country’s most-visited federally designated wilderness area.

Twin Metals, owned by the Chilean mining company Antofagasta, contends the design of the mind would prevent acid formation by limiting exposure of the sulfide-bearing ore to the effects of air and water.

In a statement, Twin Metals spokespeople said, “Twin Metals Minnesota is disappointed by the opinion issued today regarding a lawsuit the company brought in U.S. District Court on August 22, 2022, and we are working to determine next steps. We remain committed to the communities of northeast Minnesota – as we have been for more than a decade – and to supplying the minerals required for the energy transition.”

“This disappointing news is a huge blow to Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District – where Twin Metals is poised to unleash the economic engine and put countless Minnesotans to work,” Rep. Pete Stauber said in a statement, “This decision is just more proof that we need substantive permitting reform in this country. We simply cannot afford to have good mining projects caught up in endless litigation and extended delays.”

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