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.