ST. PAUL, MN -- A company hoping to open an underground mine near the Boundary Waters has officially entered into the environmental review process.
Twin Metals Minnesota is proposing to open Minnesota's first underground copper, nickel, cobalt and platinum group metals mine.
On Wednesday, the mining company, which is a subsidiary of Antofagasta PLC, submitted its Mine Plan of Operations to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and a Scoping Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The EAW is designed to lay out the basic facts of a project to determine if an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required, according to the DNR. It also provides permit information, informs the public about the project, and helps identify ways to protect the environment.
Controversy has surrounded the project for years due to it's proximity to the Boundary Waters.
In an interview with CBS 3 Duluth, a Twin Metals spokesperson said the documents submitted are an example of more than a decade of work including engineering, hydrogeological, and environmental work and research.
"It's taken a long time and we've not cut any corners, said Kathy Graul, Manager of Public Relations for Twin Metals Minnesota. "We are putting forward just an incredible project and we have some of the best people in the industry from around the world that have worked on this and we're really proud of the documents that we're putting forward for the world to see, and we're really thrilled for this milestone."
This submission kicks off a multi-year process to evaluate the proposed project.
That includes collecting data, impact analyses, and opportunities for the public to weigh in.
Congressman Pete Stauber (R, MN-08) released the following statement on the Mine Plan:
“In northern Minnesota, mining is our past, present, and future. This Mine Plan of Operation represents the future of our mining industry, as our friends and neighbors will target another key section of the Duluth Complex to supply the world’s demand for precious metals.
Copper, nickel, and other precious metals found in the Duluth Complex are not just essential to powering the modern world but are also key to unleashing the economic engine in our part of the state. The development of these resources will be done responsibly as our regulations are the strongest in the world and mandate that this company operates at the highest of environmental and labor standards.
We need the jobs and metals this project will provide, so I look forward to seeing our miners meet or exceed every local, state, and federal environmental regulation,” Stauber wrote.
Save the Boundary Waters also issued a statement.
Its director, Tom Landwehr, called out the The Trump Administration, saying it corrupted the federal environmental review process.
“This is an incredibly perilous time for the Boundary Waters. The Trump Administration has corrupted the federal environmental review process and jammed the Twin Metals project into a state process that was never intended to protect pristine locations like the Boundary Waters. If elected leaders don’t act we could lose the Boundary Waters as we know it," Landwehr said.
About Twin Metals Project
The deposit Twin Metals Minnesota is proposing to mine is located about nine miles southeast of Ely, and 11 miles northeast of Babbitt. It's called the Maturi deposit and it's part of the Duluth Complex.
According to Twin Metals, the minerals they plan to mine are located between 400 and 5,000 feet underground. The company anticipates about 80 percent of mining will occur below 1,500 feet and about 40 percent will occur below 2,700 feet.
To date, more than $450 million has been invested in the project, and they anticipate investing a total of $1.7 billion in design, environmental review, permitting, and construction.
The company estimates employing around 700 people long-term in Northeastern Minnesota, and to create about 1,400 spinoff jobs if the project is approved.