The U.S. Forest Service has approved a plan for mining companies to expand the exploration for minerals in the Superior National Forest near Ely, MN.
The decision approves 29 exploratory mining permits on parcels totaling 38,704 acres of national forest land. Superior National Forest officials note that actual amounts of land affected by the operation is roughly 1,100 acres. The plan could lead to the construction of as many as 278 new roads, adding up to 100 miles in total length, including up to 20 helicopter pads, and as many as 40 barge landings on lakes.
The exploratory work is centered south and southeast of Ely, over the Duluth Complex, a copper and nickel-rich geologic feature that has attracted the attention of mining developers. Prospectors hope to find mineral resources in concentrations high enough to support commercial mining. Separate permitting would be required for actual resource extraction.
Mining industry advocates hailed the decision as a positive step toward developing a precious metal mining industry in northeastern Minnesota. Environmental advocates worry mineral resource development in northeastern Minnesota will change the area’s wild, natural character.