Nine Businesses File Lawsuit Over Reinstatement of Twin Metals Leases

Updated: June 21, 2018 06:47 PM

Nine Minnesota businesses that rely on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area have sued the Interior Department, challenging its decision to reinstate the federal mineral rights leases for the planned Twin Metals copper-nickel mine near Ely.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in the District of Columbia on Thursday says the department's decision was unlawful and poses an immediate threat to businesses, the environment and the outdoor recreation economy. The plaintiffs include outfitters, a resort and Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness.

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One of them is Piragis Northwoods Company. Owner Steve Piragis has been an outspoken critic of the Twin Metals project. He said in a statement, "My clients would be repelled by water and noise pollution and other harm to the Boundary Waters. My business will suffer."

The Interior Department reinstated Twin Metals' expired leases last month after the Obama administration declined to renew them, citing the potential harm to the Boundary Waters. The proposed mine site is upstream from the popular wilderness area.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include:

  • Voyageur Outward Bound School
  • Piragis Northwoods Company
  • Ely Outfitting Company
  • Hungry Jack Outfitters
  • Sawbill Outfitters
  • River Point Resort and Outfitting Company
  • Northstar Canoe
  • Wenonah Canoe
  • Women's Wilderness Discovery

On Wednesday, during his campaign rally in Duluth, President Trump mentioned his support for mining. In fact, he announced that they will be taking steps to rescind the proposed withdrawal that began under the Obama administration. 

At the mining roundtable ahead of the rally, Babbitt Mayor Andrea Zupancich mentioned that the withdrawal is their biggest fear. Trump reassured her that Secretary Perdue, who runs the Dept. of Agriculture, was "looking at it strongly, and I think you'll do very well."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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