Feds Reopen Northern Minnesota to Mining Exploration! Are You Tired of Winning Yet?

The following article appeared in today’s edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, my own comments are in italics:

“The mining industry won a major victory in Minnesota Thursday, when the federal government lifted a controversial stay on minerals exploration in the area just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The decision opens hundreds of thousands of acres of federal forestlands in northern Minnesota to mining companies looking for copper, nickel and other metals — a step fiercely opposed by environmental advocates.

It is the second time the Trump administration has reversed a decision made under President Barack Obama to consider exceptional protections for the BWCA and the ecologically sensitive region from the potential impacts of industrial mining.”

In late 2017, federal regulators reinstated mining leases for one company, Twin Metals, that had been denied under the Obama administration. In the decision announced Thursday morning, they have halted an ongoing environmental review by the U.S. Forest Service to determine whether mining is an appropriate activity for the ecologically sensitive area around the BWCA.

Let’s not forget the mineral leases for this area were denied in the lame-duck portion of Obama’s presidency. Then-President Obama also imposed a slew of other regulations designed to throw roadblocks in front of natural resource development projects like the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, and coal mining projects.

Mining exploration will be allowed on all 234,000 acres of U.S. Forest land in northern Minnesota.

“We must put our national forests to work for the taxpayers to support local economies and create jobs,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, who oversees the U.S. Forest Service. “We can do these two things at once: protect the integrity of the watershed and contribute to economic growth and stronger communities.”

The decision was immediately denounced by Minnesota environmental advocates.

“The administration ignored science and facts, and clearly did not complete a promised study on the social, economic and environmental harm that sulfide-ore copper mining would do to America’s most popular wilderness,” the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters said in a written statement. “There is no indication the required environmental assessment was ever completed, nor was it ever put out for public comment, which is normal practice.”

We’ve reached a point where science and facts support the conclusion that mining can be done in a way that protects the environment. It seems like the anti-mining folks are choosing to ignore the sciences of engineering, chemistry, and hydrogeology as they continue to drum up fear about mining in Minnesota.

The environmental review was initiated by Minnesota advocacy groups, which petitioned the federal government to remove those public lands from leasing — a level of protection similar to that granted to other nationally significant places like the Grand Canyon.

Last year the Forest Service held several public meetings and solicited public comment for months on the question. After that, it initiated an environmental review that was underway until Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that over the last 15 months, the Forest Service has conducted a thorough review of this issue and listened to thousands of citizens.