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Feds revive plan for proposed copper mine near Boundary Waters

Nearly one year to the day after WTIP reported the federal government would not renew the mineral leases of a controversial mining project near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the action was reversed by the Trump administration.

On Friday, Dec. 22, Twin Metals Minnesota found out they will indeed get back permits to explore for copper, nickel and other precious metals on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. This means their efforts can continue working toward a copper mine southeast of Ely near Birch Lake. The decision was announced by the U.S. Interior Department.  It is a sharp turn from a move made in Dec. 2016 by the Obama administration to not renew the leases.

In response to the news, a statement sent to WTIP from the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters organization reads:

“The Interior Department's decision is a big fat Christmas gift for a giant foreign mining corporation willing to do anything to exploit the watershed of Minnesota's crown jewel wilderness,” wrote Save​ ​the​ ​Boundary​ ​Waters​ ​Campaign​ ​Manager​ ​Doug Niemela. “It runs contrary to fact, contrary to the law, and contrary to the views of Minnesota voters who love the Boundary Waters and rely on it for thousands of jobs, world-class hunting and fishing, and some of the cleanest water on Earth. We plan to challenge this illegal decision in court.”

On Dec. 15, 2016, WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs spoke with environmental activists and adventurers Dave and Amy Freeman about their thoughts on the United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management’s decision to deny the renewal of two leases for Twin Metals.

The Freemans told WTIP they were happy with the decision, but noted that the fight to protect the Boundary Waters would continue as other mining projects are considered.

Meanwhile, U.S. Representative Rick Nolan was not as pleased as the Freemans and the Save the Boundary Waters organization. Nolan issued a strongly-worded news release on Dec. 16, 2016 stating: “Minnesota’s Iron Range got a real slap in the face and a punch in the gut by Washington bureaucrats this morning.”

Nolan added, “The decision denies Minnesota’s Iron Range the opportunity to explore a project in the area that would bring thousands of new, greatly-needed jobs to our region. The Washington bureaucrats have clearing overreached their authority.”

Meanwhile, dating back to last year there were some residents in Ely and on the Iron Range who agreed with Congressman Nolan. WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Joe Baltich, founder of Fight for Mining in Minnesota.