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The Minnesota DNR is mothballing the environmental review work required for the proposed copper-nickel mine near the Boundary Waters.

The state agency, in an update published Tuesday, said it has stopped all work on the environmental review for Twin Metals' controversial mine proposal. Over the next few months, staff will assemble a record and close out the project, at which point the DNR will shift their work to "other high priority projects."

A project timeline published by the DNR shows the Twin Metals proposal was still in its earliest stages.

twin metals project timeline

Twin Metals, for more than a decade, has been angling to build a $3 billion underground mine in an area about 9 miles southeast of Ely, Minnesota. Environmental groups have fiercely opposed the mine, in large part because it would lie just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The DNR's announcement comes about three weeks after the U.S. Department of the Interior canceled Twin Metals' mineral leases for the area (the latest move in a federal, regulatory tug of war spanning three presidential administrations). That decision could pave the way for a 20-year ban on mineral exploration in the area. A permanent ban would have to come from Congress.

The DNR cited this move in its letter to the Twin Metals Minnesota CEO Tuesday, with Commissioner Sarah Strommen noting "the impact it has on the viability of the project as proposed."

But Strommen also highlighted "concerns" with where Twin Metals wanted to store "tailings" — industry speak for the waste produced by the mining process. The commissioner said the proposed location could imperil mineral resources on nearby School Trust Lands.

Twin Metals, which promised aggressive legal action after its mineral leases were cancelled, said in a news release Tuesday it is "working to determine the next steps to continue to advance" the mine.

"A pause on the environmental review process is necessary and appropriate while we defend our project and our mineral rights in court," the statement added. 

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters , meanwhile, lauded the end of the DNR's environmental review work.

"The Walz administration made the right decision for Minnesota and the entire country," said National Chair Becky Rom in a statement. "A Twin Metals mine next to the Boundary Waters would put at risk the pristine water, unique and fragile ecosystem, and thousands of jobs that depend on a thriving Wilderness."

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