Pro-development Minnesotans sue Governor over cancelled mine leases

In a case that appears to turn the logic of citizen actions against mine owners on its head, a group of Minnesota residents is suing the state and the Governor over a decision to revoke mineral leases.

While disgruntled residents opposed to mines usually go to court to try to stop the mine, the legal case in the Midwestern state centres around whether the state government and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton violated state law and the U.S Constitution by interfering with mineral lease renewals for Twin Metals Minnesota and Franconia Minerals, which are planning on mining copper and nickel in northern Minnesota. Among the plaintiffs are a group calling itself Up North Jobs Inc., which aims to promote job growth and economic development in the area.

“The Governors’ act denying access to and banning mining on state lands in the Rainy River watershed of the Superior National Forest was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and not based on science or fact that puts the proposed mining project of Franconia and Twin Metals in jeopardy”

“One of the state’s executive officers acting alone cannot act for the Executive Council as a whole,” they said in the civil complaint quoted by Business North, adding: “The Governors’ act denying access to and banning mining on state lands in the Rainy River watershed of the Superior National Forest was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and not based on science or fact that puts the proposed mining project of Franconia and Twin Metals in jeopardy.”

“Denying access to the valuable minerals in which they have a vested interest, constitutes a non-compensated taking whereby they have been deprived of their property, without due process of law, and violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides: “[N]or shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law,” the statement by the plaintiffs continues.

The origin of the complaint goes back to December 2016, when US federal regulators took back Twin Metals’ federal minerals leases for copper and nickel mining, saying production there poses a risk to wilderness in the region.

The decision was the latest in a string of measures taken by the Obama administration to block mining on some federal lands.

In November, Interior officials cancelled oil drilling leases near tribal land in Montana, banned gold mining close to Yellowstone National Park and blocked offshore drilling lease sales through 2022 in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.

In September, Twin Metals, a division of Chilean mining group Antofagasta (LON:AAL), filed suit in federal court seeking an order prohibiting the federal government from taking the leases back, but no action in that suit is scheduled until April at the earliest, Duluth News Tribune reports.

The company’s leases were first issued in 1966 and last renewed in 2004. A renewal would have allowed Twin Metals to mine copper, nickel and precious metals from the lands southeast of the city of Ely, northeast of Minneapolis.

The company insists it can mine without damaging the wilderness while generating hundreds of much needed jobs in an economically struggling region.