Minnesota DNR plans review of mining risk to Boundary Waters

Canoes on the shore of a lake as the sun rises.
A sunrise in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2018

Minnesota regulators will take public comments from Nov. 9 to Dec. 8 as part of a court-ordered review of whether the state's regulations for nonferrous mining are adequate to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The Department of Natural Resources on Monday laid out its plan for the review, which affects the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine near Ely. The DNR agreed to the review after Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness sued the agency.

The DNR will consider the comments and other documents, then issue an initial order by Sept. 13, 2022, on whether Minnesota's current rule on sites for nonferrous mines is adequate to protect the Boundary Waters “from pollution, impairment or destruction” from mining in the Rainy River Headwaters watershed.

The wilderness group — or Twin Metals — could then request a trial-like proceeding known as a contested case hearing, in which the sides could call witnesses and present evidence. The DNR's final decision would be subject to court approval.

Twin Metals, owned by the Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, submitted its formal mine plan to federal and state regulators in 2019. The company says its underground design would prevent any acid mine drainage and protect the wilderness.

Opponents say it's too risky to allow any copper-nickel mining upstream from the Boundary Waters.

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