Feds slam brakes on copper-nickel mine near Boundary Waters – by Jennifer Bjorhus (Minneapolis Star Tribune – December 15, 2016)

http://www.startribune.com/

Feds say Twin Metals plan poses too big a risk to BWCA.

In a major victory for environmentalists, the federal government said it will not renew two mineral leases held by Twin Metals Minnesota, saying its proposed copper mine near Ely poses too great a risk of contaminating the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

“The Boundary Waters is a national treasure, special to the 150,000 who canoe, fish and recreate there each year, and is the economic life blood to local businesses that depend on a pristine natural resource,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in announcing the decision Thursday.

The ruling slams the brakes on one of two copper-nickel mines proposed for northern Minnesota, and is likely to intensify an emotional debate that pits the region’s storied mining industry against a rare and much-loved forest wilderness.

An agency spokeswoman said the decision is not unprecedented, but added: “It is uncommon for the Forest Service to withhold consent for hard-rock mining lease renewals, except in situations like this, where there are unique and irreplaceable environmental values at risk.”

Twin Metals called the decision inconsistent with federal law and government precedent — arguments it has pressed in a federal lawsuit — and said it would continue pursuing legal remedies.

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