RELEASE: Save the BW calls upon state to reject Twin Metals/Franconia plan

Oct 9, 2023
Aerial photo of Birch Lake


Contact: Ingrid Lyons (347) 247 3720
October 9, 2023
Subject line: RELEASE: Save the Boundary Waters calls upon state to reject most dangerous Twin Metals/Franconia plan yet


Save the Boundary Waters submits letter of objection to Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources Commissioners, urging rejection of Franconia Minerals/Twin Metals Minnesota exploratory drilling plan on shores of popular recreational lake in Superior National Forest


(Ely, MN)--Today, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, founder and lead organization of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, submitted a letter of objection to a proposal submitted to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) by Franconia Minerals, a subsidiary of Twin Metals Minnesota LLC, to pursue exploratory drilling immediately adjacent to Birch Lake. Birch Lake is located in the watershed of the Boundary Waters and flows directly into the Boundary Waters. In January the Biden Administration withdrew federal lands and minerals in the watershed of the Boundary Waters from the federal mining program for 20 years.

Save the Boundary Waters Executive Director Ingrid Lyons has issued the following statement:

“Twin Metals Minnesota is grasping at straws - time and time again, its dangerous proposals for a copper mine just outside of the Boundary Waters have been rejected, whether by the federal or state government, due to merited concerns over pollution, financial risk, and more. This exploratory drilling proposal is a precursor to perhaps Twin Metals’ most dangerous proposition – to mine underneath Birch Lake, which flows directly into the Wilderness. We ask that the Walz Administration do the right thing and not only reject this proposal, but ban sulfide-ore copper mining on state lands in the Boundary Waters watershed altogether.”

In June 2020, NMW filed a lawsuit under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA) wherein NMW argues that Minnesota’s non-ferrous mining rules are inadequate to protect the Boundary Waters.This action is currently pending, and in its May 31, 2023 Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order issued as part of this action, DNR determined that Minnesota’s regulations on noise and light were inadequate to protect the Boundary Waters from mining activities in the Boundary Waters watershed and ordered rulemaking to expand the State’s Mineral Management Corridor. That process is ongoing and will include a decision on whether any sulfide-ore copper mining should be allowed at all in the watershed of the Boundary Waters because of the high risk of water pollution flowing into the Wilderness.

By demanding that DNR approve exploratory drilling in the Boundary Waters watershed before the MERA action and related administrative proceedings have concluded, Twin Metals is essentially requiring DNR to preempt the ongoing MERA lawsuit, short circuiting DNR’s analysis on noise and light pollution, as well as the egregious water quality issues sulfide ore copper mining poses in the Boundary Waters.

A 2017 report by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency describes the waters within the Rainy River Watershed area (where the Boundary Waters is located) as “exceptionally clean” and “immaculate” and concludes that "the majority of the waterbodies within this watershed had exceptional biological, chemical, and physical characteristics that are worthy of additional protection." The Boundary Waters is the nation’s premier lakeland National Wilderness Area and the most visited of all such areas. A defining characteristic is water: 24% percent of the Boundary Waters is water, and along with the Superior National Forest, it contains 20% of all the freshwater in the entire National Forest System.