ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton has come out strongly against the proposed Twin Metals copper/nickel/precious metals project near Ely.
The governor’s decision comes just four days after he failed to support the PolyMet venture near Hoyt Lakes, even though the Department of Natural Resources had issued a determination of adequacy for the project’s Environmental Impact Statement.
A Republican House leader on mining issues quickly responded, assailing the governor for a lack of support for mining in the state and job creation on the Iron Range.
Anti-nonferrous mining environmental groups praised the governor’s decision.
Dayton, in a letter to Twin Metals Chief Operating Officer Ian Duckworth on Monday, said he has directed the Department of Natural Resources “not to authorize or enter into any new state access agreements or lease agreements for mining operations on those state lands.”
Dayton also told Duckworth he has called the Bureau of Land Management director to say Twin Metals’ federal lease holdings, which currently are under review of the BLM, should not be renewed. “I apprised the director of my strong opposition to mining in close proximity to the BWCAW (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness).”
The governor told the Twin Metals CEO that he “was not questioning the qualifications of either Twin Metals or its parent company Antofagasta PLC. Rather my concern is for the inherent risks associated with any mining operation in close proximity to the BWCAW.”
Duckworth met with Dayton and DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr on March 17.
“As I told you, I have grave concerns about the use of state surface lands for mining related activities in close proximity to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
“I am not questioning the qualifications of either Twin Metals or its parent company Antofagasta PLC. Rather my concern is for the inherent risks associated with any mining operation in close
proximity to the BWCAW and my concern about the State of Minnesota’s actively promoting advancement of such operations by permitting access to state lands,” the governor said.
Dayton said the BWCAW needs tender loving care.
“Its uniqueness and fragility require that we exercise special care when we evaluate significant land use changes in the area, and I am unwilling to take risks with that Minnesota environmental icon,” he said.
Republican State. Rep. Tom Hackbarth, who is chairman of the House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee, said the governor has put up “roadblocks and delays for job creation in northern Minnesota.”
“Today’s letter from Governor Dayton begs the question: Does he believe mining is a part of Minnesota’s future? This is another unfortunate instance of Governor Dayton injecting himself into a process executed by his own state agencies,” Hackbarth said.
The Cedar, Minn., representative said Dayton’s decision aligns him with environmental extremism.
“The governor is once again putting the interests of extreme environmentalists ahead of job creation in northern Minnesota,” he said.
Becky Rom, chairwoman of the National Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, thanked the governor for his decision.
“The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a national treasure. It is too special to put at risk. This is a clear signal that the lands near the Boundary Waters Wilderness should be off limits to sulfide-ore mining. I’d like to thank the Governor for his strong leadership on this issue,” she said in a news release.