MINNEAPOLIS — The Trump administration on Thursday lifted a roadblock to copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northeastern Minnesota, reversing a decision made in the final days of the Obama administration.
The Obama administration in late 2016 withdrew around 234,000 acres of the Rainy River watershed near Ely from eligibility for mineral leasing pending a two-year study, citing the potential threat from acid mine drainage to the nearby Boundary Waters, the country’s most-visited wilderness area. The move could have led to a 20-year ban on mining and prospecting on the land.
The most immediate beneficiary is Twin Metals Minnesota, which hopes to build a copper-nickel-precious metals mine south of Ely. It plans to submit its first formal mining plan to regulators in the next 18 months.
The land is part of the Superior National Forest, which is controlled by the U.S. Forest Service, an agency under the Department of Agriculture. The USDA canceled the withdrawal Thursday, saying its review revealed no new scientific information and that interested companies may soon be able to sign mineral leases in the area.
“It’s our duty as responsible stewards of our environment to maintain and protect our natural resources. At the same time, we must put our national forests to work for the taxpayers to support local economies and create jobs,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement.
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