Minnesota court upholds group’s right to challenge mine location rules near Boundary Waters – Twin Cities

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Opponents of Twin Metals Minnesota LLC’s plans to extract copper, nickel and other minerals from a deposit on the outskirts of Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness won at least one modest victory on Monday, as the Court of Justice Minnesota’s appeal asserted the public’s right to seek a more careful review of the state’s current mine location rules.

These rules prohibit non-ferrous mining both in the boundary waters proper and in a buffer zone surrounding them. However, they do not rule out non-ferrous mining in the area Twin Metals aims to develop at Birch Lake near Ely.

A group called Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness took issue with the adequacy of the current regulations, noting that although the site Twin Metals hopes to operate is located outside of an established buffer zone, it is in the upper reaches of the Rainy River. , which flows into the boundary waters.

In a statement released Monday, Becky Rom, national chairwoman of the Campaign to Save Boundary Waters, welcomed the decision, saying: “Boundary waters are a national and state treasure. Today’s strong legal decision from the Minnesota Court of Appeals paves the way for a much-needed state review of whether the nation’s most toxic industry should be allowed in the same watershed as the wilderness most visited in America.

One of the main concerns of the group is the possibility of harmful sulphides from the copper-nickel deposit entering the water system and the surrounding environment.

But Twin Metals says its mine would pose little risk to the environment. In a statement, the company said, “The Twin Metals underground mine will have minimal surface impact and will use dry tailings management, which is praised by environmental groups and endorsed by more than 140 NGOs (non-governmental organizations). ) as the gold standard. for the management of tailings in the mining industry.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources filed a procedural order in October with the Ramsey County State District Court, agreeing to a process to review whether its existing rules governing non-ferrous mining should be allowed.

In a statement, state officials said, “This approach allows the DNR, as the state’s primary regulatory authority for mining, to assess the adequacy of the siting rule through to a robust administrative process that ensures that agency experts have the opportunity to carefully review all relevant evidence. . “

The DNR received public comment on the matter from November 9 to December 8 of this year. State officials are reviewing these comments and are expected to share their findings shortly.

Twin Metals continues to provide assurance that current state regulations on non-ferrous mining are more than adequate.

“Minnesota’s stringent environmental standards are designed to rigorously protect our environment, which includes all of our watersheds,” a company statement said.

Twin Metals recently suffered another potential setback, when President Joe Biden’s administration rejected the company’s request for additional mining leases and mining permits near Boundary Waters in October. Twin Metals is appealing this decision.

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