Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has ordered the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) not to authorize or enter into any new state access agreements or lease agreements for mining operations on state lands in close proximity to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).
His decision was revealed in a letter to Ian Duckworth, COO of Twin Metals Minnesota (TMM). The company, which is owned by Antofagasta PLC, seeks to mine copper, nickel, palladium, gold, silver and platinum on a site approximately nine miles southeast of Ely and 11 miles northeast of Babbitt.
“I have grave concerns about the use of state surface lands for mining related activities in close proximity to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area,” the governor said in his letter. “I am not questioning the qualifications of either Twin Metals or its parent company Antofagasta PLC. Rather my concern is for the inherent risks associated with any mining operation in close proximity to the BWCAW and my concern about the State of Minnesota’s actively promoting advancement of such operations by permitting access to state lands.”
Twin Metals completed its pre-feasibility study in June 2014. Its planning is many steps behind that of PolyMet, which last week received DNR approval of its final Environmental Impact Statement. TMM officials are hoping to present a plan to regulators in 2018.
Unlike the proposed PolyMet mine, the one proposed by Twin Metals would be underground. It seeks to extract nonferrous minerals from the Maturi deposit, which is roughly 4,200 feet deep and has a horizontal length of approximately 3.5 miles.
On its web page, Twin Metals says underground mining would limit surface land impacts and reduce noise, dust and surface vehicular traffic. The company further says modern water treatment technologies will ensure state and federal water quality standards are exceeded, promote water recirculation in mine operations and minimize water use; advanced waste treatment technologies will allow for the safe “backfilling” of a significant portion of mine tailings into the underground mine, and the safe storage of remaining tailings in monitored surface facilities, and advanced metal processing technologies will significantly reduce air emissions.
Dayton, however, believes the risks exceed the rewards on state lands.
“As you know, the BWCAW is a crown jewel in Minnesota and a national treasure. It is the most visited wilderness in the eastern U.S., and a magnificently unique assemblage of forest and waterbodies, an extraordinary legacy of wilderness adventure, and the home to iconic species like moose and wolves. I have an obligation to ensure it is not diminished in any way.
“Its uniqueness and fragility require that we exercise special care when we evaluate significant land use changes in the area, and I am unwilling to take risks with that Minnesota environmental icon,” Dayton wrote.
He has informed Bryan Dodds, Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), that’s he’s strongly opposed to mining near the BWCAW.
“I wish to inform you that I have directed the DNR not to authorize or enter into any new state access agreements or lease agreements for mining operations on those state lands,” Dayton wrote.