Trump Renews Mining Leases on the Border of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters

The decision halts environmental reviews and worries activists.

In November, we wrote about the ongoing debate over whether mining should be permitted in the Boundary Waters watershed in Northern Minnesota. Like most public lands issues, it’s a tricky one: plenty of locals welcome the steady jobs and economic boost of mining operations in the sleepy, remote area. Plenty of other locals, and environmental activists around the country, are adamantly against introducing any more risks to the pristine watershed and 1.1 million-acre wilderness area that brings in plenty of money on its own, through tourism and recreation.

In December 2016, the Interior Department and U.S. Forest Service elected to conduct an environmental review of area mining operations and barred renewal of the leases until the review could be completed. The Trump administration just reversed that decision and renewed the mining leases for Twin Metals Minnesota, a subsidiary of Chilean mining company Antofagasta, without the completion of the environmental review.

The family that owns Antofagasta has ties to the Trump family: billionaire Andronico Luksic is Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner landlord. He has been renting them his home in Washington, D.C. since the couple moved to the capitol.

The two leases sit on the southern border of the wilderness area and cover 4,800 acres. The renewal of the leases throws a wrench in a proposal to ban all mining activity in the area alongside the wilderness for the next 20 years.


Showing 9 comments
  • Nate Ptacek

    Thanks for your continued coverage on this issue. Of note, the Trump DOI released this reversal decision on the Friday before Christmas, without an official press release, presumably as a way to bury news they knew was deeply in the wrong.

  • Peter

    This is a tough one…
    As a resident of Minnesota and an ardent supporter of the environment, I’m afraid that I must side with the local miners on this one.
    My wife and I visit the BWCA quite frequently and we’ve been torn about this issue. Unless you have been up there and seen the absolute lack of sustainable work for the locals, you really can’t imagine how cold and long winters can be for those families. Not everyone can schlep T-shirts to tourists and hope to survive, let alone send their kids to College etc..
    And by the way, many of the “locals” that you reference are really just city folks who’ve done well for themselves and are now the proud owners of million dollar plus properties in the area.

    • steve

      The risks just seem so high though. And once water is polluted, its really really hard to clean it up again.

    • Mike

      I understand and am sympathetic to your statement but opting to potentially ruin the environment just to keep people employed doesn’t seem like a good idea.

    • Sebastian Copeland

      There are plenty of other works that the administration can bring to the area; setting up manufacturing for clean tech is one example. The argument of creating jobs at the expense of destroying the environment is the same used for propping up the fledging coal industry. It is more about serving the elite company owners than creating a tangible plan moving forward. While a great deal of empathy must be had for the lack of work, your remark addressing the wealthy “city folks” is a wide swat at individuals who care and want to conserve. Let us herald the future, and not pursue the age old destructive path that has created the widening mess we got into in the first place.

  • Eric

    Some details on the environmental risks from these mining leases would be really helpful. People can certainly Google and research on their own but…

  • Matt

    This is another absolute case of first world elitist Nimbyism. Too many are all to happy to use the products of mining but are opposed to every single mine (this time) that is ever proposed – except those located in some far off third world nation! No mine or any natural resource procurement will ever “safe” enough except those in the fore mentioned third world nations (with the absolutely worst pollution records!). It’s time for an honest conversation.

  • Mark lehigh

    There is nothing elitist about preventing copper nickel mining in a water rich environment that flows directly into the BWCA, which is connected to Quetico Provintial Park in Canada and Voyageur National Park in Minnesota. . Especially a type of mining that has a history of polluting water even in dry environments elsewhere in this country. Minnesota has a history of iron ore mining on the Iron Range which continues to this day thru taconite. Copper/nickel is not taconite mining and its history speaks for itself and its affect on the environment. Those elitists are people like me,. someone who lives in St. Louis Country where this mining would occur. A working class individual that has worked in the mining industry. and continues to live here because of the environment. Trying to portray people like me as elitist, or extreme goes to show me how far you are willing to go to stereotype environmentalists as outside the norm, Ordinary people like me. You should be ashamed. . .

    • Matt

      So what new mine proposals do environmentalists and the Sierra Club actually support? Crickets, crickets crickets…. None! And every single mine proposed anywhere will have some reason that environmentalists can come up with that justify their opposition. Nope you guys can only stand mines in other nations with the absolute worst environmental records far far away! Environmental racism pure and simple! By the way, how does your wooden (assuming you can stand logging) automobile work for you?

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