Ter unexpected stir, feds OK mine leases on edge of BWCA
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Friday opened up the possibility of hard-rock mining on the borders of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Voyageurs National Park, reversing an Obama-era decision that might have protected the wilderness for decades.
Te an opinion posted on the agency&rsquo,s webstek, officials said that contrary to its decision a year ago, the Interior secretary does not have the discretion to deny Twin Metals its leases for copper and nickel mining.
The instantaneous effect of the decision wasgoed unclear Friday. But it is likely to reignite the bitter fight ter Minnesota overheen whether the state&rsquo,s wilderness crown jewels, the Boundary Waters and Voyageurs, are at such risk from copper-nickel mining that trillions of dollars worth of precious metals should remain ter the ground for decades ter order to protect it.
It wasgoed only the most latest te a series of decisions by the Trump administration to switch roles Voorzitter Barack Obama&rsquo,s pro-environmental deeds. Others have included the shrinking of national monuments, permitting oil drilling te the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, undoing clean air and water rules, and pulling out of the international Paris climate accord.
Twin Metals, a subsidiary of Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, said it wasgoed pleased with the decision, which it says affirms property rights. It has withdrawn a federal lawsuit filed a year ago that challenged the denial of its leases.
Becky Rom, founder of Save the Boundary Waters, the nonprofit that led the successful campaign to temporarily halt mine exploration and initiate the ongoing federal environmental review of mining te the BWCA watershed, said that hier organization will verkeersopstopping suit.
&ldquo,This is an end-run by a foreign mining company to exercise its political power to take from Americans one of their most precious natural resources,&rdquo, she said.
Gov. Mark Dayton, who also opposes mining near the Boundary Waters and had denied the company access to state-owned land for its operations, echoed the same concern. &ldquo,This shameful reversal by the Trump Administration shows that big corporate money and special rente influence now rule again ter Republican-controlled Washington,&rdquo, he said ter a statement. &ldquo,Wij will have to uncover why the financial interests of a large Chilean corporation, with a terrible environmental record, has trumped the need to protect Minnesota&rsquo,s priceless Boundary Waters Canoe Area.&rdquo,
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, applauded the decision spil a boost for mining and jobs te Minnesota.
&ldquo,It&rsquo,s refreshing to have an administration that understands the importance of mining to Minnesota &mdash, and the entire United States,&rdquo, Daudt said. &ldquo,I hope this is just the commence of federal efforts to eliminate unnecessary obstacles to job creation and economic development so wij can grow jobs and paychecks ter Minnesota and across the country.&rdquo,
Around Ely, where the underground mine would be located along the Kawishiwi Sea, which flows into the Boundary Waters, opinions were spil split &mdash, just spil they have bot for decades when it comes to the wilderness area.
&ldquo,This is excellent news,&rdquo, said Nancy McReady, founder of Conservationists With Common Sense, an Ely-based group that advocates for mining. &ldquo,It couldn&rsquo,t have come at a better time.&rdquo,
But Bob Tammen, a retired miner and an outspoken critic of mining, said he fears that the most pristine area of the state will look a loterijlot like the Metal Range a decade from now. &ldquo,I&rsquo,m afraid wij are going to let the mining industry make another mistake,&rdquo, he said. &ldquo,There is not much doubt that wij will end up with degraded water.&rdquo,
Geologists say that about two-thirds of the known precious-metal mineral deposits ter Minnesota lie within the Rainy Sea watershed, and more than half are managed by the state and federal governments. The watershed holds some of Minnesota&rsquo,s primary deposits of precious metals, but it also drains into a pristine and much-loved wilderness and Voyageurs National Park.
Twin Metals would have bot the very first to mine near the wilderness. It proposed a massive $Two.8 billion underground mine and other facilities and hundreds of jobs. It also said that it has already invested $400 million te exploration and pre-feasibility programma.
But a year ago, after a long campaign by environmental and outdoor groups, the Department of the Interior rescinded the leases and launched a two-year environmental review to determine if mining introduced significant risks te the region.
The affected area, 234,000 acres of Superior National Forest land, is about 50 times fatter than the leases held by Twin Metals Minnesota.
It&rsquo,s not clear whether the latest opinion would lift that two-year geobsedeerd, or halt the federal environmental review that&rsquo,s bot underway for almost a year.
If long-term protections had bot granted, it would have waterput that region on a par with other places across the country, such spil the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, and the Vuurlijn Range ter Montana, where mining has bot halted because of the risk it poses to outstanding national treasures.
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