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Forest Service: No More EIS for Proposed Mineral Withdrawal

Updated: January 26, 2018 07:08 PM

The U.S. Forest Service is changing course on their study about mineral withdrawal on federal lands.

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Friday, the agency announced they are no longer pursuing an Environmental Impact Statement, and instead will do an Environmental Assessment. Their reasoning, according to the press statement, is that there was "the absence of significant environmental impacts identified during the scoping period."

If that EA reveals significant environmental impacts, then the Forest Service will prepare an EIS.

Mining groups said this is a step in the right direction. The Save the Boundary Waters Campaign expressed concern.

Governor Mark Dayton issued a statement, saying, "It's terrible that the Trump Administration is putting the financial interests of the Chilean mining conglomerate, Antofagasta, ahead of protecting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for generations of Minnesotans and other Americans. The administration is downgrading its analysis of the impact of copper-nickel mining on the BWCA watershed, and shamefully, exempting from that review, Antofagasta's proposed underground mine directly adjacent to the iconic wilderness area. Incredibly, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management now says that Antofagasta's leases of federal land are to be automatically renewed, which would mean that the company would control the public's land in perpetuity. I urge the Administration to disclose who persuaded it to steamroll responsible review and the protection of this priceless natural resource in favor of copper-nickel mining profits."

The governor is referring to the Twin Metals project, which is proposed in the Ely/Lake County areas, and would be affected by a withdrawal.

Meanwhile, Congressman Rick Nolan said, "This decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is the sensible and correct one, based on facts and science. Moreover, should the withdrawal fail to receive approval, any proposed mining project for this area of the Superior National Forest will still need to go through a rigorous, extensive environmental review process at both the state and federal level."

The scoping period included two public hearings last year, in St. Paul and Virginia. Many folks from the Range and the region attended the Virginia hearing in July.

The Forest Service expects to complete the EA by late 2018. It will be used to develop a recommendation about the withdrawal to the Secretary of the Interior.

They are still taking public comments, through February 28th, online: http://go.usa.gov/xnfQh

 


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