Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum introduced legislation on Wednesday to permanently ban copper, nickel and precious metal mining in the state in a move that could impact the Twin Metals mining project.
The bill is intended to protect vulnerable and fragile ecosystems from being further damaged by sulphide-ore copper mining, and would span more than 200,000 acres of Superior National Forest in the state’s northeastern region. It would prohibit new mining operations in the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), including a project proposed by Twin Metals Minnesota last month.
Kathy Graul, spokesperson for Twin Metals, said the bill, if passed, would be catastrophic for economic growth in the state. However, McCollum said the BWCAW is intact today because of protections that are over a century old and that such a legacy must continue.
The Obama administration put a 20-year mining moratorium on this area in 2016 and refused to renew mineral leases critical for Twin Metal’s project. Moreover, the administration undertook a study to understand the implications of its embargo on the BWCAW’s 230,000 acres. However, the Trump administration lifted the ban in 2018 and renewed Twin Metals’ mineral leases, effectively scuttling the study.
The proposed bill will not affect the PolyMet mining project proposed to the south of the Twin Metals project, nor would it impact iron-ore mining anywhere in Minnesota provided the air, water, and forest quality isn’t compromised.