Company Proposing Mine Near Boundary Waters Sues Government To Ensure Mineral Rights

The location of the federal mineral leases (Map via Twin Metals complaint)
The location of the federal mineral leases (Map via Twin Metals complaint)

Twin Metals, the company proposing a copper-nickel mine next to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, has filed suit against the U.S. government, seeking to renew mineral leases that are being reevaluated.

In the lawsuit, Twin Metals said the government should not be able to deny renewal. It is challenging the U.S. Solicitor General’s guidance that the Bureau of Land Management has discretion in deciding whether or not to deny renewed leases.

“The recent abrupt reversal in the federal government’s position on the right to renewal of the leases, as stated in the Solicitor’s opinion, appears to be motivated by political pressure and unsupported allegations about potential impacts of future mining development in the region,” the company stated in a press release.

The government and environmental advocates have said that because the leases were issued in 1966, before modern environmental laws, they should be considered in light of new information about the risks of mining. This summer, the Superior National Forest sought public input on whether or not it should consent to a new round of leases. More than 65,000 comments were submitted.

“The BLM and U.S. Forest Service have heard from thousands of people that sulfide mining on the edge of the wilderness is an unacceptable risk. Twin Metals’ lawsuit seeks to silence them,” said Paul Danicic, executive director of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.

If the leases are not renewed, it would effectively kill the project. Twin Metals, a five-year-old company that is now wholly owned by Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta PLC, says cancelling the project would mean wasting its $400 million investment, as well as the potential revenue, jobs, and tax dollars they say the project would create.

Twin Metals is represented in the suit by Dorsey & Whitney LLP, in Minneapolis, and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, in Washington, D.C. and Denver. Download the full complaint here (PDF).

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