Duluth Metals anticipates approval for drilling permits

A company involved with developing a controversial mine near the Boundary Waters expects to receive permits Thursday to do more exploration in the area.

Duluth Metals said it expects to receive permits from the Bureau of Land Management Thursday to begin exploratory drilling in an area nearly 20 miles southeast of Ely. The company has identified 24 sites to drill, just a couple miles from the proposed Twin Metals Project, which geologists believe holds one of the world's largest copper and nickel deposits.

The new site likewise could contain huge amounts of valuable minerals, Duluth Metals Vice President Dean Peterson said. The company's geologists hope to begin drilling as soon as this weekend.

"It's a world class target, it's the best exploration target I've ever seen in my career, I've been doing this a long time," Peterson said.

Ian Kimmer, Northern Communities program director for the environmental group Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, is concerned the exploration could eventually lead to several mines. Kimmer said the Forest Service did a good job incorporating the environmental group's input into the analysis. But the exploratory drilling still causes noise and water quality concerns, he said.

"What we're talking about here is the very beginning stages of what could be a very dramatic change in northern Minnesota character from a place that we know of as a wild outdoor environment, to an industrial mining landscape," Kimmer said.

Duluth Metals applied for the drilling permits in 2005. They were held up for several years while the Superior National Forest conducted an environmental review of mineral exploration on federal land.

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