- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Latest on the decision by federal agencies to deny renewal of mineral rights leases for the proposed Twin Metals mine in northeastern Minnesota (all times local):

2 p.m.

The company that lost its mineral rights leases for a proposed copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota says it’s committed to pressing forward and will continue to pursue its legal options for keeping its mineral rights.

Twin Metals Minnesota says it’s “greatly disappointed” in the Interior and Agriculture Department decisions not to renew its longstanding leases and to start actions to withdraw nearby federal lands from minerals development.

The company says that if the decisions stand, they’ll have a devastating effect on the economy of the Iron Range and northeastern Minnesota. It says the decisions will eliminate the promise of thousands of good-paying jobs and billions of dollars of investment in the region.

Twin Metals sued the federal government in September to force renewal of its leases. The case remains pending.

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1 p.m.

A mining trade group hopes the administration of President-elect Donald Trump will reverse an Obama administration decision not to renew the mineral rights leases for the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota.

Frank Ongaro (on-GAR’-oh), executive director of Mining Minnesota, calls Thursday’s decision “a perfect example of why Democrats lost rural America.” He says it chases investment away from the U.S. and makes the country more dependent on foreign governments for metals.

Ongaro says the related decision to block new exploration for minerals in the area near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness will have a “devastating impact” on future job growth and economic vitality in Minnesota.

The industry group says the vast untapped reserves of copper, nickel and precious metals under northeastern Minnesota can be mined safety.

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11:30 a.m.

Environmentalists are celebrating a decision by federal agencies not to renew the mineral rights leases for the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota.

Becky Rom, of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, says her group was optimistic the leases would be denied because the U.S. Forest Service said last June that it was considering withholding consent for renewal. She says it was clear from the agency’s listening sessions that many Minnesotans oppose mining so close to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Paul Danicic, of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, says the decision happened because tens of thousands of people spoke up. He says it’s critical to show the federal government how many people support permanently protecting the wilderness area from mining pollution.

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This item has been corrected to show that the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters spokeswoman is Becky Rom, not Beck Rom.

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10:15 a.m.

Federal agencies have denied renewal of critical minerals leases needed for a proposed underground copper-nickel mine near Ely in northeastern Minnesota.

The Agriculture and Interior Departments on Thursday declined to renew two longstanding mineral rights leases for the Twin Metals project, and also announced other steps to protect the watershed of the pristine Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The agencies cited “broad concerns from thousands of public comments and input about potential impacts of mining on the wilderness area’s watershed, fish and wildlife, and the nearly $45 million recreation economy.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the agencies plan take a two-year “time out” to conduct a careful environmental analysis and engage the public on whether future mining should be authorized on any federal land next door to the Boundary Waters.

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