U.S. Forest Service officials just announced that they are "deeply concerned" about potential impacts of the proposed Twin Metals copper mine on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and announced a public comment period before the agency's decision on extending mining leases for the project.
The Forest Service will start a 30 day public input period beginning on June 20th, on the request by Twin Metals to renew old leases on federal land under which the company hopes to mine copper, nickel and other metals.
Public comments on the mining lease extension can be emailed to
The Forest Service will also hold a public hearing in Duluth on July 13th. The public hearing, called a listening session, will be held July 13 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center and will be live-streamed on the internet.
In announcing the public input process, Forest Service officials said they have not made a decision on the leases but said they are considering withholding their support.
It's the strongest statement yet by a regulatory agency on the proposed project.
"... the Forest Service is deeply concerned by the location of the leases within the same watershed as the BWCAW, and by the inherent risks associated with potential copper, nickel and other sulfide mining operations within that watershed. Those risks exist during all phases of mine development, implementation and long-term closure and remediation. Potential impacts to water resources include changes in water quantity and quality, contamination from acid mine drainage, and seepage of tailings water, tailings basin failures and waste rock treatment locations," the agency noted. "Based on these concerns, the Forest Service is considering withholding consent for lease renewal."
The leases were first issued 50 years ago to predecessor companies and have been purchased by Twin Metals as the company hones in on the most lucrative spot to dig. The leases are under the control of the federal Bureau of Land Management which has formally asked the Forest Service to give its consent — in effect to recommend whether renewing the leases is good for the Superior National Forest where they are located. The leases held by Twin Metals were issued before most environmental regulations existed, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the law that requires environmental impacts to be considered before decisions are made on where mines can be sited.