A comment period is now open on a proposal by the U.S. Forest Service to remove 234,328 acres of National Forest lands that drain toward the Boundary Waters from mining for 20 years. Comments must be submitted by April 13. The move would effectively end efforts to mine the area, which have been led by Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta PLC.
Based on last year’s decision to not renew mineral leases held by Twin Metals, an Antofagasta subsidiary, the new action would prohibit mining on public land for two years, while the Forest Service considers a 20-year withdrawal from mining, the maximum allowed by law. Another comment period will be held when a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the move is released.
The lands are all in the Rainy River watershed, which drains into the Boundary Waters and ultimately Voyageurs National Park. Copper, nickel, and other sulfide minerals in the rock have attracted mining interest since the leases were first issued in 1966. The Forest Service is proposing to prohibit mining as a means to protect its lands in the Boundary Waters and the Mining Protection Area (MPA) which surrounds it.
“Any development of these mineral resources could ultimately result in the creation of permanently stored waste materials and other conditions upstream of the BWCAW and the MPA with the potential to generate and release water with elevated levels of acidity, metals, and other potential contaminants,” the agency writes.
A public hearing will be held March 16 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center. More hearings will be scheduled around the state.
Comments may be addressed to Connie Cummins, Forest Supervisor, Superior National Forest, 8901 Grand Avenue Place, Duluth, MN 55808-1122, via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or via fax to 218-626-4398.