Interior Department renews leases for Minnesota mine project

Exploratory drill site
Sitting along an old forest logging road, an exploratory drill site outside Ely, Minn.
Derek Montgimery for MPR 2012

The U.S. Interior Department has reinstated the mineral rights leases for a company that wants to build a copper-nickel mine near Ely in northeastern Minnesota, renewals that were denied in the closing weeks of the Obama administration.

The department's Bureau of Land Management informed Twin Metals Minnesota of its decision Wednesday. It follows a legal opinion from the department's solicitor last December that concluded that Twin Metals has the right to renew its two leases, which date back to 1966.

President Barack Obama's administration had cited the potential harm to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area when it declined to renew the leases in December 2016. The proposed mine site is upstream from the wilderness area.

A Twin Metals spokesman says the company is still reviewing the notification it received Wednesday.

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