ELY— The U.S. Forest Service has announced that the agency will host a second public listening session on the proposed mineral lease renewals for the Twin Metals copper-nickel project, on July 19, from 5 to 7:30 p.m., at the Ely Memorial High School. The listening session will be in addition to the session held Wednesday evening, July 13, in Duluth.
The Forest Service had been under intense political pressure in recent days to add another venue for public comment on the controversial mining proposal. Last month, Forest Service officials indicated they were leaning against renewal of the mineral leases, noting “grave concerns” about impacts to the adjacent Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Those comments prompted an outcry from Iron Range proponents of the Twin Metals project, who wanted an opportunity weigh in on the subject ahead of any decision.
In a recent letter to Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, and Eighth District Rep. Rick Nolan all voiced their desire for a listening session closer to Ely, where the Twin Metals project is based.
“We made it crystal clear to the U.S. Forest Service through our Congressional delegation letter and Iron Range press conference, that people on Minnesota’s Iron Range must have every opportunity to weigh in on the Twin Metals mining initiative,” said Nolan. “I’m pleased the U.S. Forest Service has made that decision.”
The listening sessions are part of a 30-day public comment period that runs through July 20. The Forest Service is seeking the input as part of their decision-making on whether to approve or reject to the renewal of two longstanding mineral leases that expired at the end of 2013. Twin Metals is seeking renewal of the leases, which are critical to their proposed mining operation. While the Bureau of Land Management has the ultimate authority to decide on the renewal request, BLM officials have already indicated they won’t pursue a renewal without concurrence by the Forest Service, which controls the surface rights.
The Twin Metals project is being proposed by the Chilean copper giant Antofagasta, which is the sole owner of the venture. The low grade copper, nickel, and precious metals deposit the company is considering is located along the Kawishiwi River, a major watershed within the BWCAW.
Public input may be submitted via U.S. mail to the Superior National Forest Headquarters, emailed to TwinMetalsLeaseInput@fs.fed.us, or presented verbally at a public listening session.