ST. PAUL – Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, and fellow Iron Range Delegation members are asking the Minnesota DNR for a timely conclusion to a languishing Twin Metals study that soon will enter its third year.
Lueck and the seven other members of the bipartisan IRD recently outlined their concerns in a letter to Minnesota DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. The group primarily expressed its dissatisfaction with the lack of efficient progress on a Twin Metals Environmental Impact Study.
The IRD indicates the work is taking far longer than usual, with Twin Metals first filing data with the DNR to start the process back in 2019. It now appears the DNR will not complete the scoping process for the EIS before the end of 2022, the IRD said in its letter, far longer than the average of 304 days for three past major projects – Polymet, U.S. Steel’s Keetac expansion and the Minnesota Steel project near Nashwauk.
“Completing the EIS in a timely and accurate manner is our goal, as I am certain is the goal of the professional staff at the DNR directly responsible for this effort,” Lueck said.“However, the apparent lack of progress is unsettling and requires attention. While COVID-19 may have caused some delays, it’s time to get back on task. We know how to both protect the environment and safely mine in Minnesota. Non-ferrous mining has the potential to provide major economic benefits to our state, plays a critical role in our national security and will significantly contribute to Minnesota’s K-12 public school funding.”
The letter to Strommen reads, in part, “Our commitment is to work closely with you to ensure that the process will now proceed in the fair, efficient and effective way that is expected of a state agency. We request that we begin this work by meeting with you or your designed Deputy or Assistant Commissioner to receive a full briefing on the work that has been and will be done on the EIS. In addition to a description of the work completed to date, we request that the briefing include a comprehensive schedule of key milestones to complete scoping and EIS preparation of the Draft EIS for public comment. We also request that include a plan and schedule for public and tribal outreach and coordination.”
The Twin Metals project anticipates an underground mine that will recover copper and nickel, as well as cobalt, palladium, platinum, gold and silver. The proposed mine is located within the Superior National Forest, well outside of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Northeast Minnesota’s Duluth Mineral Complex is considered to hold one of the world’s largest reserves of copper and nickel. The PolyMet mining project, also located within the Duluth Complex, recently completed the state and federal permitting process, but those permits are currently tied up in litigation, resulting in further review due to recent lawsuits. Lueck said there also is a large copper-nickel-cobalt deposit located in Aitkin and Carlton counties that is currently being explored under a joint effort by Talon and Rio Tinto Industries.