Skip to main content

Mining near the Boundary Waters: What should happen with Twin Metals?

  • Author:
  • Updated:

The U.S. Forest Service is currently in the middle of a 30-day public comment period about mining in the Iron Range.

The issue at hand: the Bureau of Land Management must decide whether or not to renew two federal mining leases with Twin Metals Minnesota. The company wants to start mining copper, nickel and other metals from land in the Superior National Forest, and needs these old leases to be renewed for that to happen.

On July 13, they're holding a public listening session in Duluth. However, some have argued that the location is inconvenient for Iron Range workers to attend, says Hometown Focus.

But a lot of politicians have already weighed in on the issue. Here's a look at what's going on, and what some people – including a former vice president from Minnesota – are saying.

Explain: What is Twin Metals?

Twin Metals is owned by Chile-based Antofagasta PLC – one of the top 10 copper producers in the world.

The Duluth News Tribune says the land where Twin Metals wants to mine covers an area southeast of Ely, north and south of Highway 1, near Birch Lake and the Kawishiwi River.

The company has already invested about $350 million in the area, according to the Herald Review.

DL-Online says Twin Metal Minnesota's leases have never been environmentally reviewed because they were issued in 1966, before environmental regulations existed.

These leases represent a small percentage of Minnesota's mining industry. According to the DNR, Twin Metals has 10 state metallic mineral leases in Lake County as of May. That's just a small fraction of the 264 total active leases with 11 different mining companies, spread across six northern counties.

What people have been saying

This week, former Vice President and Minnesota native Walter Mondale co-authored an op-ed in the New York Times urging protection from mining in Minnesota's famous wilderness area.

"There should be no copper mining anywhere near the Boundary Waters Wilderness, today or ever," Mondale and Theodore Roosevelt IV – the great-grandson of the former president – wrote in the piece.

Some Minnesota officials are divided on the issue.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is in favor of environmental protection steps, and released a statement last month commending the U.S. Forest Service for holding a public comment period. He wrote a letter to Twin Metals in March citing his concern to protect the Boundary Waters.

Rep. Rick Nolan, on the other hand, is supportive of the mine, saying it'll strength Minnesota's industry.

“In my judgment, the agency should promptly renew the Twin Metals leases — as they have done twice already without controversy. Now is not the time to preemptively block new mining opportunities on the Range,” the Democrat said in a statement, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

Nolan, along withDemocratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, previously wrote a letter to the US Forest Service requesting a public listening session.

Next Up

Image (1)

School bus carrying students plunges into river southwest of Fargo

None of the kids suffered life-threatening injuries, though some were taken to area hospitals.

Richfield High School

Richfield High School cancels weekend events after shooting

Two men were shot outside the school's football stadium

Screen Shot 2022-09-23 at 10.21.38 PM

Sound of shots, mass panic at Richfield football game streamed live on YouTube

Gunfire caused panic at a varsity football game Friday night.

J. Gordon

K-9 search leads to $36K fentanyl seizure during traffic stop

A traffic stop was made after the vehicle was seen speeding through the area.

Screen Shot 2022-09-23 at 5.20.08 PM

Gov. Walz reacts to Tuesday death of Mankato West student

The governor is a former geography teacher at the high school.

court room

Teen pleads guilty to Minneapolis carjacking, admits to others

The man was yanked out of the vehicle by witnesses before fleeing the scene.

Federal court house

Three plead guilty to roles in murder on Red Lake Reservation

The 2019 murder left another person seriously injured.


Sheriff: Heifer shot and butchered on farmer's pasture near Aitkin

Anyone with information regarding the incident is encouraged to call the Clearwater County Sheriff's Office.


Minneapolis murder suspect arrested in Wisconsin

The man has been wanted by police since the shooting happened in April.

police lights squad car dark - Unsplash

Charges: Man kidnapped woman at gunpoint, forced her to withdraw $1,500

The 56-year-old suspect is accused of forcing the woman to the Seward neighborhood in Minneapolis.

police lights

Police arrest suspect in Oakdale after 10-hour standoff

The standoff with police lasted over 10 hours Friday.


Twin Metals formally submits plans for mine near Boundary Waters

Environmental groups have urged Gov. Tim Walz to reject it.

Screen Shot 2019-05-15 at 1.51.39 PM

Trump Admin. renews leases for mining project near Boundary Waters

Two Minnesota congressmen were on hand for the signing.

Harvard study: Protecting BWCA is better for economy than mining

The professor looked at 72 scenarios. In 69 of them it was better not to mine the Superior National Forest.