Solicitor’s Opinion Reverses Decision, Allows Renewal of Twin Metals Mineral Leases
ST. PAUL, MN—The Solicitor’s Office for the Department of the Interior informed House Speaker Kurt Daudt Friday of a forthcoming opinion reversing President Obama’s previous decision denying renewal of mineral leases held by Twin Metals Minnesota. The new opinion concludes that the two leases that Twin Metals has from the United States granted them a non-discretionary right to a third renewal and, therefore, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) did not have the discretion to deny Twin Metals’ lease renewal application in December 2016. The BLM and the Forest Service, which is the surface management agency, will now move forward to review their December 2016 decisions according to the M-Opinion’s advice. They will then reconsider Twin Metals’ 2012 lease renewal application, including the appropriate environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), to identify appropriate terms and conditions for surface protection and to make a final agency decision on the application.
The opinion will allow the proposed Twin Metals project to continue to move forward, which is good news for Minnesota as the project is expected to generate billions in revenue for communities and schools, and generate approximately 650 good- paying mining jobs and 1,300 spin-off jobs. House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, issued the following statement regarding the Solicitor’s opinion.
"It's refreshing to have an administration that understands the importance of mining to Minnesota – and the entire United States,” Daudt said. “I hope this is just the start of federal efforts to remove unnecessary obstacles to job creation and economic development so we can grow jobs and paychecks in Minnesota and across the country."
In January, a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to outgoing Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell expressing outrage over the last-minute lease withdrawal and denial of lease renewals, urging its reversal. In October, Speaker Daudt and lawmakers sent a letter of support for Congressman Emmer's HR3905, which would have reversed the lease withdrawals legislatively in the absence of action by the executive branch. HR3095 passed the US House on November 30, and awaits action in the Senate.
"This move brings Minnesota one step closer to thousands of good-paying jobs and billions in revenue that will be a boon to Northeast Minnesota's economy," added Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Mining, Forestry and Tourism. "We need government at every level to be a partner and referee rather than an adversary for job creating projects line the Line 3 Replacement Pipeline, PolyMet, Twin Metals, and others."
A copy of the Solicitor’s opinion will be available here.