Copper-mining opponents assailed the decision as a “slap in the face.”
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has dealt a significant blow to environmental groups fighting to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from copper-nickel mining in Minnesota.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden ruled that the Trump administration acted within its authority when it reissued two mineral leases for the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine in 2018.
The Obama administration had previously denied the company’s request to renew its two leases to mine on 5,000 acres of public land in Superior National Forest after the U.S. Forest Service concluded that copper mining so close to the Boundary Waters was too risky, and it could cause “serious and irreparable harm” to an “irreplaceable wilderness area.”
In his decision released Tuesday, McFadden, a Trump appointee, found that the U.S. Department of the Interior acted within its “inherent reconsideration authority,” and did nothing wrong in resurrecting the Twin Metals’ leases.
“Here, Interior timely corrected an error that would have deprived Twin Metals of its right to valuable leases,” McFadden wrote. The decision is a key moment in the legal and political battle over opening up Minnesota to companies wanting to mine precious metals such as copper.