WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Interior Department on Wednesday renewed two mineral leases near the Boundary Waters Wilderness area in Minnesota, a key step in opening the popular wilderness and recreation area up to copper mining despite heavy opposition from local and national conservation groups.
The department’s Bureau of Land Management granted the hardrock mineral leases inside the Superior National Forest to Twin Metals Minnesota LLC, a subsidiary of Chile’s Antofagasta, with the aim of expanding domestic mining of “critical minerals” used in common appliances and products, saying it is beneficial to national security because it reduces foreign imports.
“Mining strategic metals in the United States is beneficial to national security, national and local economies, and job creation,” the Interior Department’s assistant secretary Joe Balash said in a statement.
Twin Metals must now submit a formal mine plan of operation to the BLM, which will then analyze its potential environmental impacts.
The announcement riled conservation groups, who said the Trump administration conducted an insufficient environmental review process leading up to its approval.