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Trump administration cancels proposed Superior National Forest mining ban

The Forest Service had sought to protect 234,000 acres of forest from mining exploration.

The Trump administration has scrapped a proposal to protect 234,000 acres of Superior National Forest from mining.

The U.S. Forest Service had proposed 20-year moratorium on mining the land during the Obama Administration, however both President Donald Trump and VP Mike Pence had promised to cancel the protection during recent visits to Duluth.

This was confirmed on Thursday and will come as a big boost to mining company Twin Metals, which is seeking to explore for copper and nickel near Ely, as well as those working in the mining industry on the Iron Range.

However it will be a blow for conservationists and the tourism industry in northern Minnesota. That's because the proposed mining area sits in the Rainy River Watershed, the same watershed as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, prompting concerns about possible pollution.

In June, Trump told Iron Range leaders he wanted to open up the area for mining exploration, albeit "carefully," with the region sitting on a deposit of copper, nickel, lead, zinc, cobalt, chromium, iron, titanium and many more metals.

In a statement, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said: "It’s our duty as responsible stewards of our environment to maintain and protect our natural resources.

"At the same time, we must put our national forests to work for the taxpayers to support local economies and create jobs.

"We can do these two things at once: protect the integrity of the watershed and contribute to economic growth and stronger communities."

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As a result of the cancelation protections, "interested companies may seek to lease minerals in the watershed," the USDA said.

The Secretary of the Interior will have the final say on whether to grant leases, with the USDA saying that applicants must follow environmental and water quality standards.

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