This article certainly will outrage environmentalists. In it, it is reported that “Twin Metals Minnesota will get back its permits to explore for copper on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and continue working toward a copper mine southeast of Ely, under a decision Friday by the U.S. Interior Department. The move by the Trump administration reverses a decision to hold back the federal mineral leases that was made one year ago by the outgoing Obama administration.”
It doesn’t stop there, though. Shortly thereafter, it says “The new opinion from the Interior Department’s solicitor general concludes that the two leases Twin Metals held from the United States for years, passed on from other companies, granted the company a ‘non-discretionary right’ to another renewal and, therefore, the Bureau of Land Management did not have the discretion to deny Twin Metals’ lease renewal in 2016.”
If you thought that this decision might start a fight with environmental activists, your prediction would’ve been right:
“This shameful reversal by the Trump administration shows that big corporate money and special interest influence now rule again in Republican-controlled Washington,” Dayton said in a statement. “We will have to uncover why the financial interests of a large Chilean corporation, with a terrible environmental record, has trumped the need to protect Minnesota’s priceless Boundary Waters Canoe Area.”
This doesn’t have anything to do with special interests ‘ruling’ Washington, DC. It has everything to do with simple contract law. Once the contract is written and signed, its terms can’t be unilaterally undone unless the contract provides for that.
Doug Niemela, national campaign chair of the group Save the Boundary Waters Wilderness, said his group would challenge the decision in court. He called the Trump administration move “a big, fat Christmas gift for a giant foreign mining corporation willing to do anything to exploit the watershed of Minnesota’s crown jewel Wilderness. It runs contrary to fact, contrary to the law, and contrary to the views of Minnesota voters who love the Boundary Waters and rely on it for thousands of jobs, world-class hunting and fishing, and some of the cleanest water on Earth.”
The good news is that Niemala’s lawsuit will be filed in federal court, where there’s at least a semblance of sanity and clear thinking.
As for Niemala’s statement that Minnesota voters “rely on [the Boundary Waters Wilderness] for thousands of jobs, world-class hunting and fishing”, Craig Seliskar, a resident of Ely, MN, offers a differing opinion of how much tourism adds to the city’s economy, saying “The winter tourism season is starting extremely slow in Ely. It never has been comparable to the summer season. Proving once again that tourism alone CAN NOT hold a candle to the great economical impacts of mining!”
Seliskar notes that the streets of Ely are virtually empty less than a week before Christmas. That isn’t surprising since Ely, MN isn’t generally identified as a Christmas shopping hotspot. Then again, why should Ely residents suffer economically because people from 200+ miles away don’t want mining in places that they rarely see?
The Twin Metals mine is predicted to produce valuable minerals for at least 30 years, including an estimated 5.8 billion pounds of copper and 1.2 billion pounds of nickel along with platinum, palladium, gold and silver.
This fight will soon continue in federal court. At least in federal court, Twin Metals has a fair shot at winning.