“Deeply concerned” Forest Service opens public input period on Twin Metals

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service stated it was “deeply concerned” about the inherent environmental risk from sulfide mining next the Boundary Waters Wilderness and announced a thirty day public period on its decision whether to veto the extension of two expired federal mineral leases held by Twin Metals Minnesota. This is a major development in the fight to protect the Boundary Waters from sulfide mine proposals on the wilderness edge, since a decision to veto the extension of these leases would be a major blow to the Twin Metals sulfide mine proposal.

The thirty day public input period begins today and ends on July 20th. Mining Truth member Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness is gathering petition signatures to present to the Forest Service as part of this public input period. You can sign it by going to http://bit.ly/notwinmetals. In addition, the Forest Service will also hold a public hearing in Duluth on July 13th from 4-7 PM at the DECC Symphony Hall.

Based on the results of the public input period, the Forest Service will decide whether to give or withhold its consent for the extension of these expired mineral leases, including one that comes right up to the edge of the BWCA. If the Forest Service withholds its consent, the leases would not be renewed and Twin Metals would not be able to mine them.

This public input period is needed because these leases, issued fifty years ago, have never been evaluated for their potential environmental impact. Ron Meador of MinnPost interviewed Mike Dombeck, the only person ever to head both the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service:

Q: These leases were first granted in 1966, before NEPA required a review of impacts in mine siting decisions, and Twin Metals argues that it’s unusual and improper to consider those impacts before the mining plan is prepared. You’ve been at both BLM and the Forest Service — is it somehow peculiar to consider environmental factors at the stage of granting a mineral lease?

A: I would say not. Particularly when you have a high-value, highly visible area of high potential risk.

I mean, how many places in the West and all over the country have we killed with acid mine drainage, including a fair number of Superfund sites, like the pit at Butte, Montana. And then there’s the issue of whether we’re dealing with a mineral that’s very rare. Copper or nickel, well, there’s plenty of it around. Certainly not a shortage of it.

Speaking just as John Q. Citizen now: Why would you risk this in an area where it could be so detrimental, when there are so many other places around the country you can get the same thing, that are already leased or in production? (MinnPost)

To sign the petition from Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, go to http://bit.ly/notwinmetals.