Trump vows to open Minnesota's Superior National Forest to mines

(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump vowed to open large swaths of lands in Minnesota’s remote Superior National Forest to mining, a move that could benefit a copper-nickel mine being pursued by Antofagasta Plc subsidiary Twin Metals Minnesota LLC.

Speaking at a rally in Duluth, Minnesota, on Wednesday, Trump said his administration would soon be “taking the first steps” to rescind a move made in the final days of the Obama administration to put hundreds of thousands of acres in the national forest off limits to industry activity.

“America’s rich natural resources, of which your state has a lot, were put under lock and key,” Trump said. While he promised to proceed carefully and only if the the move “could pass muster,” he added “it is going to happen, I will tell you.”

Before leaving office, President Barack Obama moved to take about 234,000 acres (95,000 hectares) in the Superior National Forest in far northern Minnesota off the table for exploration and other activities while a study was conducted on the environmental impact. The withdrawal requested a 20-year ban on industry activity, with a two-year moratorium to conduct the study.

The National Mining Association praised Trump’s announcement. It called Obama’s action “nothing more than a parting gift from the Obama administration to activists — and one that was at odds with the residents, business and elected officials throughout the impacted communities.”

Doug Niemela, national campaign manager for environmental group Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, said Trump’s move would “irreparably damage the Boundary Waters and pollute some of the cleanest water in the world.”

Twin Metals didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

(by Ari Natter and Jennifer Jacobs)