Interior Department Renews Leases for Twin Metals Mine

Twin Metals has received renewed leases for its proposed copper-nickel mine near Ely. Twin Metals has received renewed leases for its proposed copper-nickel mine near Ely. |  Photo: WDIO-TV file

Updated: May 02, 2018 07:31 PM

The U.S. Interior Department has reinstated the mineral rights leases for a company that wants to build a copper-nickel mine near Ely, renewals that were denied in the closing weeks of the Obama administration.

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The department's Bureau of Land Management informed Twin Metals Minnesota of its decision Wednesday. It follows a legal opinion from the department's solicitor last December that concluded that Twin Metals has the right to renew its two leases, which date back to 1966.

Twin Metals issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon. "Twin Metals is pleased with today's action by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to reinstate Twin Metals' federal mineral leases held in Northeast Minnesota. The formal reinstatement of the leases is an important step in the lease renewal process, as described and affirmed in the December 2017 DOI legal opinion. Today's reinstatement will also allow Twin Metals to resume environmental study and project development activities on the federal leases yet this summer. Twin Metals looks forward to working with federal agencies in the coming months to complete the proper process of renewing the company's federal leases "

Ely Mayor Chuck Novak said over the phone on Wednesday that the re-instatement is "fantastic news." He acknowledged the company will have to go through a long process to develop a mine plan and conduct their environmental review. 

President Barack Obama's administration had cited the potential harm to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area when it declined to renew the leases in December 2016. The proposed undergound mine site is upstream from the wilderness area.

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters sent a statement on Wednesday as well, and plans on challenging this decision in court.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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