Antofagasta to appeal US plan to block Twin Metals copper mine

The underground copper, nickel, cobalt and platinum group metals mining project is located in northeast Minnesota. (Image courtesy of Twin Metals.)

Antofagasta Plc said on Wednesday it would ask U.S. officials to reconsider a proposed 20-year ban on mining in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters region, a plan announced last week that would block its Twin Metals copper and nickel project.

The company called the moves by U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, which also rejected the Chile-based company’s lease applications, politically motivated.

“If we can prove that we can meet or exceed all (environmental) standards in place, we have a right to move this project forward,” said Twin Metals chief regulatory officer Julie Padilla.

The U.S. Forest Service last week proposed the 20-year ban, reversing a decision by former President Donald Trump and setting off a review of how mining could affect the popular outdoor recreational area on the U.S.-Canada border.

The Forest Service, part of the Agriculture Department, controls the surface land at the site. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, part of the Interior Department, controls the underground copper deposit and must approve plans to extract minerals.

Antofagasta will comment on the proposed ban during the public review period. It is also asking federal regulators to reconsider their rejection of several lease applications, which would give the company exclusive mining rights in the area.

The rejection means the company would lose access to an area it has already paid to explore. The government could let another company mine the area in the future, though such a step is improbable. “We’ve done the work and now they’re taking it away,” Padilla said.

The Interior Department said federal regulations require it to deny pending lease and permit applications because of plans for the 20-year ban.

The company has two other leases in the area, though they are being challenged in court.

The Campaign To Save The Boundary Waters, an environmental group opposed to the Antofagasta project, said the appeal was “unfortunate for Minnesota” and the country.

“It’s very clear that the most toxic industry in America has no place next to the Boundary Waters,” said Becky Rom, the campaign’s national chair.

(By Ernest Scheyder; Editing by John Stonestreet and Richard Pullin)

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