*ICYMI* Star Tribune Editorial: BWCA decision respects, follows the law

Jan 31, 2022
Jeremy Drucker

For Immediate Release

January 31, 2022 



Star Tribune Editorial: BWCA decision respects, follows the law


This weekend the Star Tribune published an editorial about the Biden administration's decision to cancel the improperly renewed mineral leases of Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta's Twin Metals at the edge of Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). The editorial carefully examines the legal reasoning of the Biden administration and finds a necessary correction to the "shady maneuvering that put a foreign-owned company's interests over protecting the BWCA" during the Trump years. The editorial lays bare that despite the feeble gaslighting of Twin Metals and its boosters like U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, it was the Trump administration and its "oil industry lobbyists and other dubiously qualified appointees overseeing public lands" that were making purely political decisions about sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters in what the editorial calls, "brazen political interference." 


From the editorial:


Calls for "law and order" are likely to echo through Minnesota this election year. Those advocating for it ought to strongly applaud a new Biden administration move to safeguard the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness by canceling two ill-gotten leases foundational to the Twin Metals Minnesota copper mine's future.

The decision, announced Wednesday, does not ban mining in Minnesota. What it does is follow and respect the law. It does so by correcting decisions made under former President Donald Trump that favored Twin Metals but "violated" federal regulations in "at least two ways," according to a forceful, well-reasoned legal determination from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The release of this important document should inspire outrage in all who value natural-resource stewardship. Even a cursory read of Interior's review makes it shockingly clear that mollycoddling this project became a top priority during Trump's tenure. Twin Metals is owned by Chilean-based Antofagasta, which is controlled by the billionaire Luksic family.

Under Trump, oil industry lobbyists and other dubiously qualified appointees filled key posts overseeing public lands. The new Interior analysis details one unsurprising result: shady maneuvering that put a foreign-owned company's interests over protecting the BWCA.

Among the findings: a deeply "flawed" legal memo that paved the way for the Trump administration's reinstatement, then renewal, of leases key to Twin Metals operations. The Obama administration had previously declined to renew them. But Trump officials didn't stop there. In the renewals, they departed from standard federal lease language and conditions and put in place customized terms advantageous to the firm.

One such change: granting Twin Metals "a special 'right' to another renewal."

The intent was to grease the skids for this underground mine and hobble future administrations. But the alteration violated Interior Department regulations, the legal analysis found. The Trump administration also ignored, in violation of federal law, the U.S. Forest Service's authority over federal mineral leasing decisions in Minnesota…

…the lengths to which Trump officials went to grant Twin Metals special treatment undermine the firm's claims that mining can be done safely so close to the BWCA. If the project is that good, then there was no need to bend or break rules and regulations. Nor did the Trump administration need to halt a different study of copper mining risk's to the BWCA watershed, which it did just a few months before the review's completion, then keep the findings secret.


If there's a case study in brazen political interference, it's the Trump administration's repugnant pandering to Twin Metals.

In addition to canceling the improperly renewed Twin Metal leases, the Biden administration is currently considering whether mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters should be banned. In October it announced the initiation of a mineral withdrawal process that could lead to a ban on mining for up to 20 years. That process includes an environmental study of the impact of sulfide-ore mining on the Boundary Waters and surrounding communities.