A coalition of businesses, environmental advocates and outdoor recreation groups in the state of Minnesota, U.S., have gone to court challenging a Trump administration’s decision that opened the door to a copper, nickel and platinum project by a wilderness area.
Chilean miner Antofagasta (LON:ANTO), through its subsidiary Twin Metals, is in the midst of carrying out a feasibility study for the project, an underground copper-nickel mine and processing facility along the shores of Birch Lake and the South Kawishiwi River, which lie in the Rainy River watershed.
It’s the location of the project which has triggered concerns among locals. Last week, more than two dozen former U.S. Forest Service staffers sent a letter to the government, outlining the risks a proposed mine in the area would carry.
“Irrefutable scientific studies and all of our experience tell us that in this extremely valuable, water-rich and highly interconnected place you simply cannot have both copper mining and healthy forests, water and communities,” the letter, addressed to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who oversees the Forest Service, and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, reads.
“Speculation about the impact of a potential mine at this time, before a proposal has even been submitted, is just that — speculation,” the company said in a statement sent to MPRNews.
The lawsuit, however, challenges the government’s reversal of an Obama-era decision blocking all new mining projects within the watershed for 20 years and requiring an environmental impact study for the proposed mine.
Former President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer and law professor at the University of Minnesota, Richard Painter, is concerned about another issue related to the mine.
Antofagasta is majority-owned by Chilean billionaire Andrónico Luksic, who is also the owner of the house where Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner live, as reported by the Wall Street Journal
Based on that piece of information, Painter has accused the Trump administration of allowing Luksic to use the Boundary Waters area “as his toilet.”
The Bureau of Land Management renewed in December Twin Metals’ leases in Minnesota for a 10-year term.