Washington, D.C. – The Bureau of Land Management on Wednesday renewed mineral rights leases for the proposed Twin Metals project near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
The approval comes months after the Trump administration reversed President Obama’s mineral lease withdrawal.
The leases cover land nine miles southeast of Ely where Twin Metals is hoping to tap into the world’s largest untapped deposits of copper, nickel, and platinum group metals.
The 10-year lease renewal gives the Chilean-owned mining company access to national forest land near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
The company can now submit a detailed project plan for its mine and processing operation, which could happen in a few weeks.
Julie Padilla, Chief Regulatory Officer for Twin Metals, said there’s still a lot of work to be done before the company actually starts digging.
“We’ve got to submit the mine plan of operations, then we need to kick off the environmental review process that will engage the agencies, the public, other stake-holders in the process, and then we’ll have to file for permits – so we are years out,” said Padilla.
Rep. Pete Stauber, who was present for Wednesday’s lease signing by Department of Interior Assistant Secretary for Land and Mineral Management Joe Balash, said the milestone pushes Twin Metals one step closer to offering a mine plan of operation.
“This lease renewal is a critical step to allow us to present a proposal for our underground mine project,” said Kelly Osborne, TMM chief executive officer. “It’s very good news for us and for the communities in northeastern Minnesota who look forward to the hundreds of jobs and major economic development this mine will bring.”
Environmental groups responded quickly to the announcement, saying the the review of the project completed by the Trump Administration was “wholly insufficient”.
“(It’s) a continuation of the Trump Administration’s assault on the Boundary Waters Wilderness,” Tom Landwehr, executive director of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters said.
The Bureau of Land Management received more than 39,000 comments during a public input period surrounding Twin Metals, many concerned about potential damage to the wilderness area.
Twin Metals expects the project would directly employ 650 people and create an estimated 1,300 spin-off jobs.