In response to public comments on whether Minnesota’s regulation of nonferrous mining will offer adequate protection against environmental harm to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, state officials started gathering public opinions on the issue on Tuesday.
There will be a comment period through December 8th. The Department of Natural Resources has created a unique website for consideration, including a portal for the general public to provide opinions. The Department of Natural Resources also accepts feedback by letter.
The question is whether the state’s present law governing the siting of copper-nickel mines would be sufficient to safeguard the Boundary Waters “against contamination, damage, or destruction” caused by mining in the Rainy River Headwaters watershed, which is in question. An investigation of the regulation was prompted by a court order, which was part of a lawsuit seeking to stop the construction of an underground metals mine in Ely.
As the government said in a statement, “it is critical that respondents give relevant information on why the siting regulation should or should not be altered.” According to the DNR, “Comments that are only focused on supporting or opposing mining, without giving other facts for the DNR to examine, will not help the DNR in making decisions concerning the appropriateness of the current nonferrous mine siting regulation.” The lawsuit filed by Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness attempts to restrict nonferrous metallic mineral mining, including copper-nickel mining, across the Rainy River Headwaters watershed and the Rainy River Headwaters watershed’s watershed. Presently, the sitting rule is more restrictive. Miners are prohibited from mining inside the wilderness and mining that disturbs the surface in a defined area around the Boundary Waters.
The state procedures are distinct from a study begun by the Biden administration last month, which placed a significant impediment in the way of the Twin Metals project’s progress. An investigation of mining upstream from the Boundary Waters was ordered, resulting in a 20-year ban on mining in the area. Twin Metals has filed an appeal against that ruling. A campaign to stop Twin Metals, which started in the closing weeks of the Obama administration but was halted by the Trump administration, was resurrected due to the federal government’s decision.
In a statement, Twin Metals, which Chilean mining giant Antofagasta controls, claims that its mine design would avoid acid drainage from the sulfide-bearing ore and safeguard the surrounding environment from contamination. It argues that if the current environmental evaluation process is allowed, it will demonstrate that the mine can be operated safely for the environment and approved.